Japan art and Utagawa Kunimasu: Kamigata-e

Japan art and Utagawa Kunimasu: Kamigata-e

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Utagawa Kunimasu is known to have been a wealthy individual. Yet very little is known about the vast majority of his life – outside the art he produced. Therefore, it is like a jigsaw with the majority of pieces missing. 

Artistically, he was very productive between the early 1830s and 1850s. Thus Kunimasu was active during the late Edo Period. However, the exact birth and death of Kunimasu remain open to speculation.

The Met Museum says, “Little is known for sure about the artist Kunimasu, except that he seems to have been born into wealth, and he had the chance to study print design under Utagawa Kunisada in Edo, then returned to Osaka to sponsor ukiyo-e print production.”

During his lifetime, he was a notable Kamigata-e artist. This refers to artists emanating from the Kansai region (Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, and other areas). Therefore, the merchant angle of Kobe and Osaka – along with the rich high cultural traditions of Koyasan, Kyoto, Nara, and other parts of Kansai – entailed a rich fusion of ideas.

Kunimasu utilized his wealth and love of art by opening up a print school to express amazing designs. Hence, while the pieces of the jigsaw remain impossible to fix, his art entails that the imagination can piece various aspects together – even if vague!


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