Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Alternate names:
Fubō Sanjin ( - 富望山人)
Fuchōan ( - 富眺庵)
Gepparō ( - 月波楼)
Gototei ( - 五渡亭 used from 1812-44)
Hokubaiko ( - 北梅戸)
Ichiyūsai ( - 一雄斎)
Kinraisha ( - 琴雷舎)
Kōchōrō ( - 香朝楼)
Shōzō (common name - 庄蔵)
Sumida (original family name - 角田)
Tojuen ( - 桃樹園)
Tsunoda Kunisada (familiar name - 角田国貞)

Lifetime: 1786 - 1865

Related links:


Utagawa Kunisada (1786 – January 12, 1865) was the most popular, prolific and financially successful designer of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in 19th-century Japan.

The next passage of Kunisada's early biography is quoted from What About Kunisada? by Jan van Doesburg.

"Kunisada was born early in the year Temmei 6, probably in the second month, which roughly corresponds to March of the year 1786 of the western calendar. He received the name Tsunoda Shozō and the house name Kamedaya.

Little is known about his parents. His father was name Shōbei and he was well in his sixties when Kunisada was born. Shōbei earned a living as the owner of a ferry, and acquired fame to some extent as a haiku poet under the pseudonym Gokyōtei Kinrai. He died at the age of sixty-nine, in the eighth month of the year Temmei 7, some sixteen months after the birth of Kunisada.

Kunisada's place of birth was 'Itsutsume Watashiba', his parents' 'fifth ferry-house' at the river Tate in the city of Edo. The river was a small tributary which entered the river Sumida a few yards south of the well-known Ryōgoku-bridge. The ferry was located near the Gohyaku-Rakan temple in the district of Honjo. This part of the city of Edo is situated in the Katsushika area of the province of Bushū (Musashi). Kunisada has lived for some time at the Itsutsume Watashiba, but for the longest part of his life he lived in a house 'before the gate (Monzen) of the Komeido Tenjin shrine in the district of Honjo, north of the 'fifth ferry-house'. Around 1845 he moved to Yamagishima, again in Honjo."


Sebastian Izzard wrote back in 1979 that Kunisada's father "... was a ferryboat owner who kept the 'fifth ferry' station on the Tatekawa, a small tributary which entered the Sumida River just below Ryogoku Bridge in Edo." This is important because "In 1812 Kunisada's friend, the poet Shokusanjin [蜀山人], gave him a new go Gototei, meaning 'pavilion of the fifth ferry,' when Kunisada inherited his father's business. From this date until 1844 he employed this go, though after 1830 it is largely restricted to theatrical prints. In 1827 Kunisada entered the school of Hanabusa Ikkei, a painter who worked in the tradition of Hanabusa Itcho. From Itcho's name Kunisada derived his go of Kochoro, of which the first clearly datable example is 1830. He used this name concurrently with Gototei until 1844, when he took the name Toyokuni II..."


Among the very first Japanese prints to enter the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art were 19 examples by Eizan. These were in an album of 24 prints which include 2 by Kunisada and 3 by Kunimaru. They were a gift of Mary L. Cassilly in 1894.

A second album of 88 prints was also donated at the time. It was prints from 'The Hundred Poets Compared' series including works by Hiroshige, Kunisada and Kuniyoshi.

Source: 'Early Collectors of Japanese Prints and the Metropolitan Museum of Art' by Julia Meech-Pekarik, Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 17, 1982, pp. 93-118.


In 1979 Sebastian Izzard estimated that approximately 30% of Kunisada's output was of bijin.

Izzard also noted that "In 1813 he was rated Sekiwake (second) in the Gesakusha Ukiyo-e Eshi Midashi Bansuke , a table of Ukiyo-e artists which parodied Sumo wrestler tables. Toyokuni came first and the young Kuniyoshi is named as Maegashira (twenty-seventh)."


Kunisada and the Rustic Genji theme

The following is a quote from page 35 of Bryan Fijalkovich's Master of Arts thesis at the University of Cincinnati.

"Kunisada not only designed the dazzling illustrations for Rustic Genji, he also created thousands of print designs based on it. He was head of a large studio, and with the aid of his pupils, he produced at least thirty-seven Rustic Genji print series between 1835 and 1866, one fan print series, fourteen single-sheet and diptych series, and twenty triptych series, with a grand total of Rustic Genji designs ranging in the 700s. As each print design had an initial run of 1,000 and that Rustic Genji was highly successful, Kunisada could easily have designed over one million Rustic Genji prints bearing his signature."