Japan art and Kitagawa Tsukimaro

Japan art and Kitagawa Tsukimaro 

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Kitagawa Tsukimaro (1794-1836) was born during the Edo Period. Much remains unknown about Tsukimaro. Hence, the year he was born and died is presumptive – and not set in stone. However, we know he lived roughly in this timeframe – even if the year of his death is more sketchy. 

He studied under the acclaimed Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806). Thus, like Utamaro, he also faced political repercusions concerning the negative depictions of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Tsukimaro during his informative period focused on illustrated books that had a ready market and depicting beautiful ladies (bijin-ga). Hence, similar to his teacher Utamaro, bijin-ga art was a very important angle in the development of Tsukimaro.

The British Museum says, around “…1820 (he) ceased to design prints, painting instead hanging scrolls of beauties in a style influenced by the Maruyama-Shijo school, which he signed ‘Kansetsu’. His last dated work is an illustration for a ‘kyoka’ anthology published in 1836.”

The Tokyo National Museum says, “In the Edo period, make-up became fashionable through the Kabuki theater, ukiyo-e prints, books and other established media. Make-up in the culture of Kyoto, for example, was a long-running bestseller avidly read by women for over 100 years. The term “make-up” referred to anything to do with personal appearance, from methods of making cosmetics to ways of creating sloping shoulders, and also included caring for the face, arms, legs and hair, using make-up suited to one’s features, knots for obi sashes, and styles of walking.”

Hence, Tsukimaro – similar to his acclaimed teacher Utamaro – belonged to a world where ukiyo-e prints heavily focused on the above. Especially with bijin-ga and kabuki art prints being extremely popular.

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