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Utagawa Kunikazu (active 1848-1868)

Biographical Data


Utagawa Kunikazu 歌川国員 (active 1848-1868*)

Little is known about Kunikazu who was active in the Osaka area between 1848 and 1868.1 While several sources list him as a student of Utagawa Kunisada I (1786–1865), a.k.a. Toyokuni III, others list him as a student of Toyokuni I and Toyokuni II without mentioning Kunisada.2

Mainly known for his prints of the kabuki theater, Roberts calls him a "highly accomplished technician"3 and Schwaab writes that "his better theatrical material produced between 1853 and the advent of aniline colors, includes some remarkably fine designs and an extraordinary level of printing."4

In addition to theater prints, Kunikazu designed several Yohohama-e and designed along with Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841-1899) and Utagawa Yoshiyuki (act. 1848-1864) the series One Hundred Views of Osaka (Naniwa hyakkei) published in the early 1860s by Ishikawaya Wasuke (Ishiwa), an example of which is shown below.

His artist name () is 一珠斎 Isshusai (also seen as Ichijusai).

This artist should not be confused with another artist named Kunikazu (active c. 1856-1858) who used the characters 國計 for his name.

Evening View of the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin matsuri yūkei),
from the series One Hundred Views of Osaka (Naniwa hyakkei)
「浪花百景 天神祭り夕景」
Isshusai Kunikazu (Japanese, active about 1848–1868)
Signed: Kunikazu ga 国員画
Publisher: Ishikawaya Wasuke (Ishiwa), early 1860s
Dimensions: Vertical chūban; 24.5 x 17.8 cm (9 5/8 x 7 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts Boston Accession Number 11.30390

Sample Signatures of the Artist

Kunikazu sha
Isshusai Kunikazu ga
ōju Kunikazu ga
? Kunikazu ga
unread seal
sealed Kunikazu

1 A birth date of c. 1830 is occasionally seen associated with his name as is a death date of 1910, but most reputable sources cite only an active period of c. 1848-c. 1868. Dean J. Schwaab in Osaka Prints, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1989, p. 47 notes that by 1879 Kunikazu was dead.

2 Japanese Wikipedia lists him as a student of Utagawa Toyokuni III as does Laurance Robert in A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Weatherhill, 1976. p. 95. Dean J. Schwaab in Osaka Prints, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1989, p. 40 states Kunikazu's name appears "on the monument to Toyokuni [1] raised by his students", but I believe this to be an error as Toyokuni I died in 1825 and Schwaab later states on p. 46 of the same work that "Kunikazu is listed on the Toyokuni memorial as a student of Toyokuni II [1777-1835]..." He also mentions that he was likely a student of Kunimasu's (a.k.a. Sadamasu) (active early 1830s-early1850s). 

last revision:
5/31/2021 created