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Utagawa Yoshitsuya (1822-1866)

Biographical Data


Utagawa Yoshitsuya
 歌川芳艶 (1822-1866)

Sources: The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints, Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing Company, 2005, p. 504-505; A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 204.
Born with the family name of Kôko Mankichi, Yoshitsuya entered the studio of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) around the age of fifteen.   He is considered one of Kuniyoshi's more important students1 along with Utagawa Sadahide (1807-1873).  He was famous for his designs of tattoos in the 1840s and 1850s, along with his prints of warriors and prints using legendary animals, such as the giant serpent pictured below, as  caricatures of political events to avoid censorship.  The print shown below, Yorimitsu Trying to Capture a Monster (Kijustsu o yabutte Yarimitsu Hakamadare o karamen to su, 1858), is reportedly a caricature of the political struggle for succession after the death of Iesada the 13th shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Like other artists looking to supplement their income, Yoshitsuya also designed advertisements such as the one pictured below for medicinal toothpaste and medicine for clear vision.

Medicinal Toothpaste Kiyomasa-ko Illustration
The late-16th-century warrior hero Kato Kiyomasa capturing a tiger

Miruwa kusuri kasumi no hikifuda
Medicine for clear vision

Artist's Other Names and Students

Signatures of Utagawa Yoshitsuya,
both reading 'Ichieisai Yoshitsuya ga'
Yoshitsuya used the  Hōon, Kōko Yoshitsuya (甲胡 芳艶) and as Ichieisai Yoshitsuya (一英斎 芳艶) and as Ichoyōsai.

Yoshitsuya’s students include Utagawa Kazutoyo (active c. 1862-70),Utagawa Yoshitoyo II (active c. 1862-77), and Yoshitsuya II (active c.1870s).

1 Also noted as a "minor pupil" of Kuniyoshi's by Roberts.
2 For a detailed discussion of this print and its symbolism see University of Vienna's Ukiyo-e Caricatures website http://kenkyuu.jpn.univie.ac.at/karikaturen/detail.asp?docid=635&lang=e&first=1