Artist: Keisai Eisen (渓斎英泉)

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

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.


Keisai Eisen (渓斎 英泉) was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist who specialised in bijinga (pictures of beautiful women). His best works, including his ōkubi-e ("large head pictures"), are considered to be masterpieces of the "decadent" Bunsei Era (1818–1830). He was also known as Ikeda Eisen, and wrote under the name of Ippitsuan.

Eisen was born in Edo into the Ikeda family, the son of a noted calligrapher. He was apprenticed to Kanō Hakkeisai, from whom he took the name Keisai, and after the death of his father he studied under Kikugawa Eizan. His initial works reflected the influence of his mentor, but he soon developed his own style.

He produced a number of surimono (prints that were privately issued), erotic prints, and landscapes, including The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kiso Kaidō, which he started and which was completed by Hiroshige. However, his most famous works are the bijin-e (pictures of beautiful women) which portrayed the subjects as more worldly than those depicted by earlier artists, replacing their grace and elegance with a less studied sensuality. He produced many portraits and full-length studies depicting the fashions of the time.

In addition to producing a prolific number of prints, he was a writer, producing biographies of the Forty-seven Ronin and several books, including a continuation of the Ukiyo-e Ruiko (History of Prints of the Floating World), a book which documented the lives of the ukiyo-e artists. His supplement is known as "Notes of a Nameless Old Man." He describes himself as a dissolute hard-drinker and claims to have been the owner of a brothel in Nezu in the 1830s which had burned down.

(This information was taken directly from Wikipedia.)