Keisai Eisen (渓斉英泉) (Biographical details)

Keisai Eisen (渓斉英泉) (printmaker; painter/draughtsman; Japanese; Male; 1790 - 1848)

Also known as

Keisai Eisen; Kokushunro (国春楼); Koizumi (小泉); Ippitsuan Kako (一筆庵可候); Fusen Ichiin (楓川市隠); Mumei'o (无名翁); Insai Hakusui (淫斎白水); Inransai (淫乱斎); Hokutei (北亭); Hokkatei (北花亭); Chiyoda Saishi (千代田才市千代田才市)


Painter and print artist. Born at Hoshigaoka in Edo, his father a samurai, Ikeda Masahei Shigeharu, a talented calligrapher. Lived in Owari-cho; Hamamatsu-cho; Nezu Shichiken-cho; Shitaya Ikenohata; and Nihonbashi Sakamoto-cho nichome. After his parents died forced to become a 'ronin' to support his younger sisters. At one time a Kabuki playwright using the name Chiyoda Saishi, and about this time lodged with the family of Kikukawa Eizan and studied painting with Eizan's father, Eiji. Also worked as a brothel owner and seller of face powder. In later years a prolific author of popular literature and also in 1833 compiled the manuscript 'Mumei'o zuihitsu' ('Zoku ukiyo-e ruiko'), a reworking of the biographies of Ukiyo-e artists. Studied with the minor Kano painter Hakkeisai and with Kikukawa Eizan.

From the late Bunka era (1804-18) onwards many illustrations for the various genres of popular literature as well as 'surimono' and a large output of single-sheet prints of women, including some fine bust portraits, exploring the world of the unlicensed pleasure quarters of Edo in his own rich, seductive style. Also many illustrations to erotic works. Contributed twenty-four designs in a Kano-influenced style to the landscape series 'Kisokaido rokujukyu-tsugi' ('Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido Highway', late 1830s) designed with Hiroshige. Eisen painted a relatively large number of hanging scrolls of beauties, sometimes with particularly large (half life-size) figures drawn so that they appear to get larger the higher up the body they are viewed, giving them very vivid presence. The eyes are set wide apart with particularly luxuriant lashes and the pupils always glancing off to one side, but otherwise the faces are not unlike those painted by Eizan.