Utagawa Kunisada II (二代歌川国貞) (artist 1823 – 1880)

Baidō (go - 梅堂)
Hōraisha (go - 宝来舎)
Ichijusai (go - 一寿斎)
Kōchōrō (go - 香蝶楼)
Kunimasa III (go - 国政三代)
Masakichi (nickname - 政吉)
Seitarō (nickname - 清太郎)
Baichōrō Kunisada (梅蝶楼国貞)
Takenouchi Munehisa (original family name - 竹内宗久))
Utagawa Toyokuni IV (四代歌川豊国)



A pupil of Utagawa Kunisada I, he signed much of his early work "Baidō Kunimasa III." He took the name Kunisada after marrying his master's eldest daughter Ōsuzu in 1846. He changed his name once more following his master's death, to Toyokuni III. However, since there were three artists called Toyokuni before him, Kunisada II is now often known as Toyokuni IV.

Note that Amy Reigle Newland says that Kunisada II married in Toyokuni III's daughter some time around 1852 when he took the name Kunisada. In 1870 he took the name 'Toyokuni III' which was actually Toyokuni IV.

Kunisada II is renowned for his prints. His favourite subjects were pleasure-houses and tea ceremonies. These themes are sometimes found together in some of his prints, as geishas usually acted as chaperones at tea-houses.


According to Andrea Marks in his Japanese Woodblock Prints: Artists, Publishers and Masterworks: 1680-1900 it says of Kunisada II:

"With nearly 200 different titles, Kunisada II was a prolific book illustrator. Just over forty print series by him are known. He worked for almost fifty publishers, in particular Tsutaya Kichikzō for whom he designed three Genji series "Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Cards (Murasaki Shikibu Genji karuta), "Up-to-date Genji Picture Scrolls" (Genji imayō emaki), and "Reflections of Genji's Fifty-four Chapters" (Omokage Genji gōjūyojō). The popularity of his worked decreased dramatically in the early Meiji period. He continued as the head of the Utagawa School with a few students such as Kunisada III (1848-1920) and changed his name in late 1870, again like his teacher Kunisada did before him, calling himself now Toyokuni (IV). However, he designed only few prints or illustrated books in the 1870s and seems to have stopped completely after 1874.

Age 58, Kunisada II passed away onJuly 20, 1880. His posthumous Buddhist name is Sankōin Hōkokujutei Shinji and, like Toyokuni and Kunisada, he is buried at the Banshōin Kōuji."


Henk Herwig wrote on page 33 in Andon 58, April, 1998: "Kunisada II ( I 823-80) is one of the minor representatives of the Utagawa school. In Western sources very little information is available about his artistic career. He was a pupil of Kunisada I (1786-1864, from 1844, Toyokuni III). His earliest prints were signed Baidō Kunimasa (III) or Kunimasa (III). From 1846, when he married his master's daughter, he signed his prints Kunisada (II) in combination with the prefix Kōchōrō, or Ichiyūsai. In I 870, after the death of his teacher, he began to use the signature Toyokuni (IV). His work is dominated by kabuki actor portraits executed in the style of the Utagawa School. Ficke in hís Chats on lapanese prints sneers: "His prints, largely executed ín cheap analine colours, set one's teeth on edge with some of the most shrieking discords that I have ever encountered" .' In the Dictionary of Japanese artists, Roberts states: "his prints, largely done in garish analine colors, represent the tasteless exaggerated style of late ukiyo-e."

"There are good reasons for a disparaging qualification of Kunisada II's artistic oeuvre but his series Hakkenden inu so sōshi no uchi, published in I852, certainly is a favourable exception. "