Hosoda Eishi (細田栄之) (artist late 1750s - late 1820s)

Chōbunsai (go - 鳥文斎)
Fujiwara (original family name - 藤原)
Kyūzaemon (nickname - 久左衛門)
Hosoda Jibukyō Tokitomi (family name - 細田治部時富)



"Eishi was of unusually high rank for an Ukiyo-e artist, his grandfather and great-grandfather having both served as Chief of Accounts (kantei bugyō) for the Bakufu, with , with a stipend of 500 koku, court rank of Lower Fifth Grade and the title of Governor of Tamba Province. This permitted Eishi to study painting under Kanō Eisen'in Michinobu (1730-90), head of the Kanō school and Chief Painter in Attendance (oku-eshi) to the Shōgun Ieharu after 1781. The nineteenth-century compilation of painters' biographies, Koga bikō, even records that Eishi was appointed as Ieharu's 'painting companion' (om-ga no tomo), though he was forced to retire after only three years of service because of ill health, presumably before Ieharu's death in 1786.

It was at about this time that Eishi must have taken the decision to 'drop out' of the Bakufu bureaucracy and painting academy and become an artist of the popular Ukiyo-e school. Such a transformation was not entirely unprecedented: it was at this time that Sakai Hoitsu, second son of the Lord of Himeji, was studying Ukiyo-e painting with Utagawa Toyoharu. Eishi never relinquished his high status, however, and some of his best later Ukiyo-e paintings are signed with titles such as 'Painted by Eishi, High Official of the Ministry of Ceremonial, Tokitomi of the Fujiwara Clan' (Jibukyō Eishi Fujiwara Tokitomi hitsu').

His earliest works in Ukiyo-e style were illustrations for a kibyōshi novel published in 1785, and in general his colour prints of the later 1780s follow the prevailing style of Kiyonaga, with a particular penchant for courtly themes, as in his series of triptychs reworking chapters from Tale of Genji in modern settings,printed entirely in muted colours. In the 1790s he produced a steady stream of prints of standing or seated beauties against simple backgrounds that show the influence of Utamaro, but have a particularly refined tone (often likening the courtesans to female poets from the Heian period) and a style that favoured broad sweeping curves in the drapery.

Eishi was one of the most prolific of Ukiyo-e painters, and although his corpus of several hundred paintings has yet to be studied systematically and in detail, there are a handful of dated works that fall between 1795 and 1826. The figures show the same elegant line and refined poses as in the woodblock prints and are often set in ink-wash landscapes deftly painted in the Edo-Kanō technique learned in his youth. Eishi was often prone to repeating successful compositions, and, for example, more than a dozen versions survive in various formal and informal painting styles of a handscroll, The Gods of Good Fortune Visit Yoshiwara, based on a comic essay of 1781, Kakure-zato no ki ('Record of the Hidden Village'), by Ōta Nampo. Nampo was a leading figure in popular literature from the 1780s to his death in 1823, and his kyōka (crazy verse) or kanshi (Chinese-style poem) inscriptions are often to be found on Eishi's paintings: Eishi did several versions of a portrait of the famous writer.

In addition to paintings on Ukiyo-e themes Eishi did several versions of a handscroll, The Battle of Sekigahara (fought in 1600), presumably for military patrons. It is with precisely the same touch Eishi used to paint the crests of Yoshiwara courtesans on their lanterns that he now painted the emblems of military families on their battle standards: nothing could illustrate more neatly the duality of the world he inhabited. It is further recorded that on one occasion the retired Emperor Gosakuramachi saw a painting by Eishi, Sumida River, and was sufficiently taken with it for the work to enter the Imperial collections. After this Eishi occasionally impressed a large seal on his paintings reading 'Viewed by the Emperor' (tenkan).

Almost thirty pupils of Eishi are recorded, the most prominent being Eishō, Eiri and Eisui, who are known for thier colour prints of the 1790s showing bust portraits of famous courtesans. Most other pupils are known only by a few paintings in Eishi style, and it seems that after c. 1800 the new, brash tenor of commercial printing - epitomised by the Utagawa school - was no longer in tune with Eishi's fine sensibilities. After this time he produced only paintings.

Quoted from: Ukiyo-e Paintings in the British Museum by Timothy Clark, p. 122.


According to the curatorial files at the Bibliothèque nationale de France it was the shogun who gave Eishi his name which they translate as 'He glorifies'.