Kitagawa Utamaro (喜多川歌麿) (Biographical details)

Kitagawa Utamaro (喜多川歌麿) (printmaker; painter/draughtsman; Japanese; Male; 1806; died)

Also known as

Kitagawa Utamaro; Kitagawa Utamaru (alternative reading); Utamaro (歌麻呂 or 哥麿); Kitagawa (喜田川); Kitagawa Toyoaki (北川豊章); Toriyama Toyoaki (鳥山豊章); Tori Toyoaki (鳥豊章); Sekiyo (石要); Mokuen (木燕); Murasakiya (紫屋); Entaisai; Fude no Ayamaru (筆綾丸); Yusuke (勇助); Ichitaro (市太郎)


Renowned painter and print artist. Pupil of Toriyama Sekien. Thought to have been born sometime in the mid-1750s; the exact date is not known. The most celebrated artist of women of the whole 'Ukiyo-e' school, Utamaro's work blossomed steadily during the 1780s as a result of his close association with the publisher Tsutaya Jusaburo. He strove hard to develop a fresh and cool new depiction of women, and after a period during the late 1780s and early 90s when he concentrated on illustrated albums and sets of prints inscribed with 'kyoka' poems, he managed to establish his own unique style and replace Kiyonaga as the premier designer of prints of women. He excelled at sensuous depictions, at conveying the sense of the glistening skin of the female body and capturing the most delicate nuances of emotional states, in a very different manner from Kiyonaga. Over-production may have contributed to a gradual slackening and coarsening of design sense from the late 1790s onwards, and Utamaro would never recapture his earlier greatness. He produced many illustrated books, erotic prints and some fine paintings.