Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Utagawa Kunisada "Artisans"  1857  California Palace of the Legion of Honor

Artisans shows a group of women in a workshop producing woodblock prints, and is from the series A Parody of the Four Social Classes. It is a flight of fancy, because although there were some women working as ukiyo-e artists or as assistants in the workshop of well-known artists during the Edo period, it seems that women were not at that time employed to carve or print the blocks, which was considered an entirely different craft from the painting of the original image. (Women did of course assist in family-run businesses so I assume there were some exceptions.) Although this is an imaginary scene, the stages of the process are all accurately described. (Click image to enlarge!)

Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) was a prolific ukiyo-e artist of the late Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime he was by far the most popular and successful artist among his contemporaries, which included Hiroshige, Hokusai and Kuniyoshi.

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