There were thousands of Ukiyo-e artists, however, three stand out. They are Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige.
Utamaro Kitagawa is highly appreciated as the dominating Ukiyo-e artist of the late eighteenth century. Yet little is known about his life. Neither the precise date of Utamaro’s birth, his birthplace, nor any substantial information about his parents is known.
The original name of Utamaro was Ichitaro Kitagawa. It is generally agreed that he started his career as a pupil of the painter Toriyama Sekien. His early known works were actor portraits and theater programs, published under the name of Utagawa Toyoaki. In 1781 or 1782 he changed his name to Utamaro Kitagawa. Around 1783 Utamaro started a successful cooperation with the publisher Tsutaya Juzaburo. Together they published several book illustrations. The early works of Utamaro were influenced by Torii Kiyonaga and Harunobu. Beginning in 1791 Utamaro concentrated his work on single portraits of women. He took his models from the street or from the Yoshiwara pleasure district. The stories of his love affairs with the ladies of the Yoshiwara are said to be abundant. Read more on “Ukiyoe – Art for the Masses – Part 3 – Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige” »