Oneness and clarity

All around us is attractively clear. Can easily identify particular things through enticing sources. There are many errors and the tests are hidden behind the only result of clarity, are they not? Nothing is perfect till it is described as imperfect. Now we have more technology and advanced techniques to render our process with a little clarity. But, over two centuries back, How they accomplished this clarity and attractive production when there was no opportunity for technology and techniques. If we see today, we can’t make a difference whether it be done now or then. Will find it.

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Utamaro Portrait_

Utamaro and his early life

His full name is Kitagawa Utamaro and original name is Kitagawa Nebsuyoshi. Probably, he was born in a provincial town. He moved to Edo (Tokyo) in 1755 with his mother and he started his painting under the name of Toyoaki. He was married but we don’t know whether he had a child or not. There was no confirmation and historical evidence about his early life. What we know now is may or may not be a true thing. He is one of the iconic artists of ukiyo-e e woodblock prints and paintings. His paintings are far different and unique than other artist’s works. During his period, he sets an ideal and example for himself. 

Utamaro’s devotion to painting

Utamaro became a pupil of the painter Toriyama Sekien while he was a child. When he was about 22 years old, he produced his work, which had been the cover of the Kabuki playbook. Around 1783, He started Successful cooperation with the publisher Tsutaya Juzaburo. He then produced several actor prints, along with the theatre program and other such material. He also produced nature studies and illustrated books on insects. In 1790, he backed up all the illustrated paintings and set up his goals through painting and designing mediocre woodblock prints of women. Nobody knows why he focused on that genre, he might produced 1500 prints, among them most of the paintings portray the beauties of women. In 1804, he got arrested for depicting the ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1604 disrespectfully and manacled for 50 days. That incident drown him, Inspite of his sufferings, he continued his arts till his last breath and he died after 2 years from imprisonment in 1806.

Utamaro’s Masterpiece

In 1791, Utamaro’s work reached its peak, he followed the footsteps of kiyonaga, he concentrated to work on single portraits of Japanese women with an elongated faces, large-headed which was far different than the women who were lived during his lifetime. He did it to bring out their grace and elegance by small eyes with pointed lips. He took his model from the street and the pleasure district Yoshiwara. It is not clear why he focused on this genre but it reveals his passion and dedication towards his profession while going through his paintings.

Today’s Magazines

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Ase o fuku onna ( Women Wiping Sweat )_©

Now we can see varied magazines which are covered and portrayed with a model posture. There were around 100 photos might taken, among which only one picture would be selected for magazine, that images should be attractive, clarity and it should admire the passersby to buy. Right?

The same, Utamaro experimented with new techniques to display. His women are idealized as tall with slender bodies. The heads are twice longer than broad, long neck and small shoulder. The noses are extremely long, eyes and mouth are depicted as too small. These things depict as it is like a model in today’s magazine.

Philosophy and styles of his work

He had portrayed the beauty of women with more depth and sensitivity. He used new techniques to achieve a different and softer effect for the flesh tones of his women. His notable features in his work are the use of partial views and the emphasis on light and shade. His most original contribution to the art of the Japanese print was his close up picture or Okubi-e 

Which concentrated on the face. The use of line, color, feeling for pattern, and composition make him one of the finest woodblocks ever made. He and the other member of the Katsukawa School popularized the dusting of mica in the background of paintings which acts as a glittering effect. He was well versed in traditional ink painting, where negative and positive are played off each other. In each of his paintings, one can easily identify his experimenting skills and ideas to bring out the works with elegant and unique. Utamaro’s color prints were also exceptional. His paintings stood out above his contemporaries for their detail and design.

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Geisha Walking Through The Snow At Night- Kitagawa Utamaro _©

Recognition After Death

Japanese woodblock prints were exported to Europe during the nineteenth century. France was the chief one, they loved Utamaro’s portrait of beautiful women. As result, France is the main source of reproductions of Utamaro prints. His works influenced the European impressionist. Today his prolific prints are displayed worldwide. Kitagawa Utamaro’s prolific production of bijinga prints found fame within his lifetime, influencing the work of not only future ukiyo-e printmakers, but also painters across the globe, making him one of today’s most well-known, and expensive, Japanese woodblock artists!

“Not only has advanced technology set the stage for highlighting clarity and unique things, but effort, passion and ideas will do”.


  1. 2021. Kitagawa Utamaro – 121 artworks – painting. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 September 2021].
  2. 2021. Utamaro – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 September 2021].
  3. 2021. Utamaro – New World Encyclopedia. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 September 2021].
  4. 2021. Utamaro Kitagawa – artelino. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 September 2021].
  5. Shannon, L., Kawano, K., Team, T. and Keyes, H., 2021. 11 Facts About The Ukiyo-e Master Kitagawa Utamaro – Savvy Tokyo. [online] Savvy Tokyo. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 September 2021].
  6. 2021. Kitagawa Utamaro. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 September 2021].
  7. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021. Utamaro | Japanese artist. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 September 2021].
  8. 2021. Kitagawa Utamaro. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 September 2021].

Lincy is an Architect. She adores Architecture and to explore more on the same. She likes to do research as it only leads to know where we are now. She firmly believes that design should have a purpose or else it is no good. To cool her off she enjoys the music and plays the piano often.

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