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Utagawa Kuniteru I (active ca. 1820-1860)

Biographical Data


Utagawa Kuniteru 歌川 国輝(初代) (active ca. 1820-1860)

Four artists with partially overlapping careers, plus a fifth who came later, Utagawa Kuniteru III (active c. 1886-1895), used the artist name Utagawa Kuniteru, although one of the Kuniteru's used a different kanji character "照" instead of "輝" in his name. Roberts in A Dictionary of Japanese Artists provides brief biographies of the first four Kuniterus, but it is the second Kuniteru (国輝, fl. mid-19th c., with a gō that includes Sadashige 貞重) whom he lists that is likely our Kuniteru, the designer of the above print.1 

Note that I have used the dates of "active ca. 1820-1860" for this artist, as does the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

A sampling of museums that have prints identified as by Utagawa Kunisada show different ways they handle attribution:

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston lists the artist's name as Utagawa Kuniteru I (Sadashige) (Japanese, active about 1820–60), using (Sadashige) to differentiate him from the other artists using the name. 

The Library of Congress does not seem to differentiate between either the co-existing Kuniteru or the generations of Kuniteru.

The National Diet Library of Japan lists Utagawa Kuniteru I (?-?) with the following description:2
A disciple of Utagawa Kunisada I. Worked on a large number of kodomo-e (prints with children as their subject) and kyokun-e (nishiki-e (brocade pictures) intended to convey knowledge or a frame of mind). 
Active Period: Bunsei era (1818-1830)-Ansei era(1854-1860)
Other Name(s): Sadashige, Yusai, Ichiyusai, Gochotei, Issensai

The Metropolitan Museum of Art lists the artist as Utagawa Kuniteru, using the birth-death dates of 1830–1874), which are actually the dates commonly associated with Utagawa Kuniteru II (1830-1874).

The Indianapolis Museum of Art lists the artist as Utagawa Kuniteru without birth and death dates, but attributes two prints to him with a creation date of 1831-1834, clearly a contradiction with the MET's birth date of 1830.

The Van Gogh Museum lists the artist as Utagawa Kuniteru (1808-1876).

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco lists the artist as Utagawa Kuniteru (1829-1874) and notes, "Pupil of Kunisada. Often confused with two other artists of the same period and using the name of Kuniteru."3

For simplicity sake, if such can be achieved, I've transcribed Roberts short biography of the second Kuniteru he lists, who, as I stated above, I believe is the Kuniteru associated with this collection's print and who was active during the late Edo period, but not into the Meiji period when his name successors Kuniteru II and Kuniteru III were active:

Kuniteru 国輝 (fl. mid-19th c.) N. : Utagawa (originally Ōta 大田) Kinjirō 歌川金次郎. [artist names]: Dokushisha 独酔舎, Gochōtei 五蝶亭, Ichiyūsai 一雄斎, Kuniteru  国輝, Sadashige 貞重, Shinteite i新貞亭, Yūsai 雄斎. Biog.: Ukiyo-e printmaker. Pupil of Kunisada. When his master used the of Kunisada, Kuniteru called himself Sadashige 貞重; when Kunisada became Toyokuni III, called himself Kuniteru. Made actor prints, generally in a style close to that of Kuniyoshi. Note: Since many references to collections and bibliography carry no kanji, all such references may refer to this artist or to any of the other three using the name Kuniteru.4 

Note that another gō  should be added to the above list, that of Kunihiko 国彦, which the artist started signing his work with in 1855, as is shown below in the second row of signatures attributed to Kuniteru. 

1 A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 97.
3 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco https://art.famsf.org/utagawa-kuniteru
4 op. cit., Roberts

Signatures and Seals Attributed to the Artist (A Sampling)

Sadashige aratame Kuniteru ga
Sadashige aratame Kuniteru ga
貞重改国輝画 (1847)
Kuniteru ga
Ichiyūsai Kuniteru ga

Ichiyūsai Kuniteru ga

Kuniteru aratame Kunihiko ga, in toshidama cartouche

(December 1855) 
Utagawa Sadashige ga
(date unknown)
Sadashige ga
(date unknown)

latest update:
4-23-2019 created