Artist: Keisai Eisen (渓斎英泉)

Alternate names:
Ikeda Yoshinobu (family name - 池田義信)
Konsei (azana - 混声)
Zenjirō (nickname - 善次郎)
Teisuke (nickname - 呈介)
Hokugō (go - 北豪)
Hokutei (go - 北亭)
Ippitsuan (go - 一筆庵)
Kakō (go - 可候)
Kokushunrō (go - 国春楼)
Mumeiō (go - 無名翁)

Lifetime: 1790 - 1848

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"Born at Hoshigaoka in Edo, his father a samurai, Ikeda Masahei Shigeharu, a talented calligrapher. Lived in Owari-chō; Hamamatsu-chō; Nezu Shichiken-chō; Shitaya Ikenohata; and Nihonbashi Sakamoto-chō nichōme. After his parents died forced to become a rōnin to support his younger sisters. At one time a Kabuki playwright using the name Chiyoda Saishi, and about this time lodged with the family of Kikugawa Eizan and studied painting with Eizan's father, Eiji. Also worked as a brothel owner and seller of face powder in later years a prolific author of popular literature and also in 1833 compiled the manuscript Mumei-ō zuihitsu (Zoku ukiyo-e ruikō), a reworking of the biographies of Ukiyo-e artists. Studied with the minor Kanō painter Hakkeisai and with Kikukawa Eizan.

From the late Bunka era (1804-19) onwards many illustrations for the various genres of popular literature as well as surimono and a large output of single-sheet prints of women, including some fine bust portraits, exploring the world of the unlicensed pleasure quarters of Edo in his own rich, seductive style. Also many illustrations to erotic works. Contributed twenty-four designs in a Kanō-influenced style to the landscape series Kisokaidō rokujūkyū-tsugi ('Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō Highway', late 1830s) designed with Hiroshige. Eisen painted a relatively large number of hanging scrolls of beauties, sometimes with particularly large (half life-size) figures drawn so that they appear to get larger the higher up the body they are viewed, giving them very vivid presence. The eyes are set wide apart with particularly luxuriant lashes and the pupils always glancing off to one side, but otherwise the faces are not unlike those painted by Eizan."

Quoted from: Ukiyo-e Paintings in the British Museum by Timothy Clark, p. 196.


Eisen and pornography

At Scholten Japanese Art they wrote: "Although Eisen was born into a samurai family which would have accorded him some social status, he experienced a painful fall from grace triggered by the deaths of first his father and then his stepmother only months apart in 1810. At the age of 20, Eisen was forced to find ways to support himself as well as three younger half-sisters. He began producing shunga the following year, relatively early in his artistic career. Unlike his contemporaries in the studio of Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825) who was chastened by a crackdown in 1804 by the authorities and apparently forbade his students to produce shunga for a considerable period, Eisen designed shunga albums and novels with his own text, narratives, and even his own calligraphy. Although the lavish shunga publications were mostly produced under pseudonyms, his distinctive style was easily identifiable and invited scrutiny which eventually forced him to give up his samurai rank."