Utagawa Kunikazu (active c. 1849-1867)
The landscape tradition as an independent genre never really took hold in Kamigata printmaking as it had in Edo, although
Osaka artists frequently included abbreviated landscapes as minor motifs in their actor-print designs. Nevertheless, some
late-period Osaka artists such as Hasegawa Sadanobu (1809-1879), Kunikazu, and Yoshitaki
(1841-1899) designed landscape prints in a style derived from Hiroshige I
and Hiroshige II.
Sadanobu was perhaps the most successful Osaka artist in the landscape genre, for although his style was derivative, he did design
successful landscapes sets, including horizontal chûban of views of Osaka (Naniwa hyakkei no uchi, "One Hundred
Views of Osaka") and Kyoto (Miyako meisho no uchi, "Famous Places of Kyoto") for the publisher Wataki in the
late 1850s (more than 120 designs were published for this series, an obvious indication of its popularity among the print-buying
public). Other publishers and artists quickly decided to join this brief Osaka landscape competition.
A representative example is
shown on the right, a chûban view by Kunikazu titled Tamae bashi-kei ("View of the Tamae Bridge"), published
by Ishiwa circa late 1850s-early 1860s in the series Naniwa hyakkei ("One Hundred Views of Osaka"). Designs for this
series are also known by Yoshiyuki (1835-1879; published by Goryoken) and Yoshitaki (published by Ishiwa). Kunikazu contributed to
a related series entitled Miyako hyakkei ("One Hundred Views of Kyoto") published by Ishiwa and also involving the
artists Umekawa Tokyo (active circa mid 1850-early 1860s), Gyokuen (active circa 1830s-early 1860s), and Hokusui (active circa mid
to late 1850s). Kunikazu also designed ôban landscape prints derivative of Hiroshige for a series issued circa 1847-1852
that was titled Tôto meisho ("Famous Views of the Eastern Capital").
The influence of Hiroshige's vertical ôban series 'Meisho Edo hyakkei' ("One Hundred Famous Views of Edo," issued
from 2/1856 through 10/1858) on Kunikazu's Tamae print is, of course, obvious (note the virtual copying of the series and title
cartouches). Still, the print could hardly be mistaken for a design by Hiroshige. Kunikazu emphasized the receding perspective and
playfully exaggerated the symmetry of this scene depicting a procession of samurai. There is obvious humor in the choreographed placement
of the figures, with an entertaining comical touch in the angle of the horse's rear legs echoing that of the retainers' swords. (Note:
There was a second Osaka artist of the period, active c. late 1850s, who also signed as Kunikazu, but with the character for 'kazu'
written differently.) © 1999-2001 by John Fiorillo
- International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Report of Japanese Art Abroad Research Project No. 3): Catalogue of Japanese art in the Náprstek Museum, Kyoto 1994, p. 3, pl. 18; pp. 46-47, pls. 272-276; and pp. 43-44, pls. 256-261.
- Keyes, R. and Mizushima, K.: The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973.
- Lühl, H.: Helden, Schurken, Kurtisanen: Das Japanische Kabukitheater des 19. Jahrhunderts in Holzschnitten der Osakameister ("Heroes, Villains, Courtesans: The 19th Century Kabuki Theatre on Japanese Woodcut Prints of the Osaka School"), Unna 1987, pp. 116-121.
- Schwaab, D.: Osaka Prints, New York 1989, pp. 254-263, pls. 288, 291, 294-301.