Japan art and Utagawa Toyoharu (1735-1814)
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Utagawa Toyoharu (1735-1814) was the founder of the art school of Utagawa in Japan. He also depicted European scenes – even if some were mislabeled, concerning the name of the country and place name.
He was born in the province of Tajima (Northern Hyogo prefecture). However, he studied in the cultural city of Kyoto relating to the art school of Kano. His early mentor was Tsuruzawa Tangei.
In the 1760s, Toyoharu moved to Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Thus new ideas entered his artistic world when he studied under Toriyama Sekien (1712-1788). Sekien adored Japanese folklore and was a notable poet. Therefore, Toyoharu focused on new dimensions related to ukiyo-e.
The British Museum says, “Painter and print artist. Pupil of Toriyama Sekien. Toyoharu designed many perspective prints during the later 1760s and 70s, laying the foundations for the development of landscape prints. From the 1780s onwards he concentrated on paintings of the fashions and customs of beautiful women. He was the founder of the Utagawa School.”
During his time in Kyoto, Toyoharu became familiar with the art of Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795). Ōkyo was fascinated by the various artworks of Chinese, Japanese, and Western artists. Therefore, despite Toyoharu’s artistic style being extremely different from Ōkyo, his mindset did influence Toyoharu.
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