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Who was Utagawa Kuniyoshi, the artist who inspired manga and Monet

Posted on July 18 2020

Who was Utagawa Kuniyoshi, the artist who inspired manga and Monet

 

Sometimes the Japanese manga culture is said to be born in the late 19h century, but the truth is that this kind of art has a much longer history. During the Edo period (1603-1867), the concept of manga was born with some talented artists, such as Utagawa Kuniyoshi. 

He was one of the last great masters of the Japanese ukiyo-e style of woodblock prints and painting and also considered one of the godfathers of manga. Said to be a natural talent, Kuniyoshi was very successful in his time. And he is still popular nowadays, which proves his works are timeless. 

The range of Kuniyoshi's subjects included many genres: landscapes, women, Kabuki actors, cats and mythical animals

 

Dacing Gueixa by Utagawa Kuniyoshi Poster

Dancing Gueixa by Utagawa Kuniyoshi Poster

 

But he is best known for depictions of the battles of legendary samurai heroes. The stirring, action-packed images of warriors from Japan’s past, of legends, myths, landscapes and beautiful women were the comics of his days, designed to be seen by as many people as possible and regularly copied.

 Samurai with blue kimono by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Samurai with blue kimono by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

 

What may be less obvious is the debt to Kuniyoshi and his color woodblock printing owed by impressionist masters like Claude Monet. Experts say the impressionists were struck by the woodblock artists’ command of perspective, particularly in their landscapes, while features like clouds and water were rendered in a “primitive impressionist” style.

 

Claude Monet - Nymphéas

Painting of the Monet’s series “Nympheas”

 

Born near Nihonbashi in 1797, Utagawa Kuniyoshi became famous only in his early 30s. In 1827, he was commissioned to design a series of warrior prints inspired by a Chinese novel, “Outlaws of the Marsh,” known as “Suikoden” in Japanese. The series launched a “Suikoden” craze that lasted for decades. It also made Kuniyoshi’s name.

Suikoden, by Utagawa

Suikoden

 

His works are appreciated until nowadays and make remarkable decor prints, as you can see below. 

Samurai and red dots by Utagawa Kuniyoshi Poster

Samurai and red dots by Utagawa Kuniyoshi Poster

 

Samurai Frogs by Utagawa Kuniyoshi Poster

Samurai Frogs by Utagawa Kuniyoshi Poster

 

Samurai with dark blue kimono by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Samurai with dark blue kimono by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

 

Red Sumo Soldier by Kuniyoshi

Red Sumo Soldier by Kuniyoshi

 

Check out our Japanese Art Collection and find more Utagawa Kuniyoshi posters to add to your home decor. Use the code KUNIYOSHI15 and have 15% off on your purchase.

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