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VJP title Utamaro print showing



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Enjaku (active c. 1856-1866)


Enjaku kanji Enjaku deluxe Enjaku was an Osaka print designer who is known today only by his artist's name (geimei). He produced more than 140 designs, roughly ninety percent in deluxe editions and all but a handful in the chûban format (about 10 x 7"). Enjaku's designs must have been printed in small editions because many are known in only one or two impressions and very few show any signs of key block wear.

Enjaku specialized in designing actor prints made with luxurious techniques (metallics, embossing, burnishing, expensive pigments, gradated shading, multiple hues of a single color). He worked with the finest Osaka block cutters and printers of the late Edo period. In some cases his portraits were significantly enhanced by the quality of the printing, and these prints are among the most impressive examples of the printmaker's art at the start of the final period in Osaka. His prints were often issued without publisher's marks, possibly through private arrangements with block-cutter and printer workshops as special commissions from actors or their fan clubs and private patrons.

Many of Enjaku's actor portraits were based on performances from the middle-level kabuki theaters (called chû-shibai) and the shrine theaters (called shanai shibai). The figure on the right depicts the actors Nakamura Tamashichi I as Kamiyui Goroshichi and Nakamura Kanjaku II as Sakuragawa Ranchô in the play Wakaki no adanagusa ("Notorious guises at the Wakagi") performed in 8/1858 at the Tenma shrine theater. The background is printed with brass metallics simulating the luxurious gold leaf found on Japanese screen paintings. The colors are made from expensive pigments that are typical for deluxe-style prints in the kamigata-e (prints made in the Kyoto-Osaka region). The diagonal arrangement of the actors as they strike their expressive mie was a standard compositional device found throughout ukiyo-e actor portraiture, but it is aided here by setting the actors against the metallic background, endowing Enjaku's double portrait with an air of elegance.

Enjaku was perhaps the most interesting transitional artist in the late 1850s-early 1860s shortly before the final period of Osaka printmaking. All the surviving prints bearing Enjaku's signature demonstrate a refined sensibility. The color palette is rich but well balanced, still avoiding the garishness that would creep into some later Osaka printmaking. The facial lines are thin and precisely carved and printed, and the clothing patterns are detailed but not overwrought.

Another design by Enjaku is illustrated and discussed in relation to distinguishing between deluxe and standard editions (see Enjaku editions). ©1999-2001 by John Fiorillo


  • Fiorillo, J. and Lühl, H.: "Enjaku: An Osaka master of the deluxe print during the transition to the final period," in: Andon, special issue, Dec. 2006.
  • Keyes, R. and Mizushima, K.: The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973.
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