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Ukiyo-e print by Kitagawa Utamaro of a woman dressing hair
Kitagawa Utamaro
Paper, Oban format, woodblock-printed with four colours
Centimetres: 56 (length), 40.7 (width)
early 1790's
Early Modern; Edo
Area of Origin: Japan
Area of Use: Japan; Asia
Sir Edmund Walker Collection

Description: Ukiyo-e prints of the early 17th century developed from illustrated books. Later in the century the illustrations gained such widespread popularity that they were issued separately. Early ukiyo-e prints were printed in black and white, sometimes with red, yellow and green colour washes added by hand. With the advent of full-colour printing in the 1740s, up to ten colours could be applied, each by its own carved woodblock. Improved printing techniques made the vibrant and colourful ukiyo-e prints one of the great achievements in Japanese art. The ukiyo-e format inspired Japan's greatest artists. The radical perspectives, flat planes of colour, and bold lines of Utamaro, Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other ukiyo-e masters were much admired in the West and considerably influenced the works of Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters such as Manet, Whistler and Van Gogh. Although little is known about his life, Kitagawa Utamaro is one of the greatest ukiyo-e artists, who specialized in prints of women. Scouted by publisher Tsutaya Jozaburo, Utamaro established a new style of female bust-length portraits. While his models were contemporary real people from courtesans to popular beauties, his sensual and elegant portraits were rendered as idealized women with oval faces

Exhibit History: ROM Japan Gallery opening December 2005-September 2006

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