Artist: Kuniyoshi UtagawaTitle: Cats of the Tokaido Road WoodblockPublisher: AdachiDate/Period: Showa era edition printed from recarved woodblocksMedium: Japanese Woodblock PrintSize/Format: oban triptych, each panel: 11 x 16 inches, Overall: 33 x 16 inchesNotes:UTAGAWA KUNIYOSHI was born in Edo (present-day Tokyo) in 1797. He was the son of a silk dyer named Yanagiya Kichiemon and was given the name Yoshisaburo at birth. At the age of 14, Yoshisaburo joined the Utagawa School of ukiyo-e artists, then headed by Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769 - 1825). Toyokuni I gave Yoshisaburo the name Utagawa Kuniyoshi; being a combination of the names Toyokuni and Yoshisaburo. In 1814, Kuniyoshi ended his apprenticeship and set out as an independent artist. He initially produced actor prints in the style of his teacher, which gained him little recognition. Kuniyoshi achieved a commercial and artistic breakthrough in 1827 with the first six designs of the series, The 108 Heroes of the Suikoden. The series was bases upon a 14th century Chinese novel about the adventures of a band of 108 honorable bandits and rebels.
Like his teacher, Kuniyoshi had many students including Kyosai (briefly), Yoshifuji, Yoshifusa, Yoshiharu, Yoshiiku, Yoshikage, Yoshikata, Yoshikatsu, Yoshikazu, Yoshimori, Yoshimune, Yoshinao, Yoshinobu, Yoshitora, Yoshitori, Yoshitoshi, Yoshitoyo, Yoshitsuna, Yoshitsuya, and Yoshiyuki. Kuniyoshi had a special fondness for cats, which overran his studio and are portrayed in many of his prints. Although Kuniyoshi is now universally known as Utagawa Kuniyoshi, he also used the names Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi , Cho-o-ro Kuniyoshi, Ikusa Kuniyoshi, and Saihosa Kuniyoshi. He died from complications of a stroke on April 14, 1861.
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