In the woodblock print schools during the Edo period pupils adopted the style of their masters by looking at their designs and copying them first before they developed their own style later in their career. The teachers (masters) on the other hand looked at their colleagues and rivals from the past and present for inspiration.
A striking example of this can be found in the design below in which the older master Utamaro (1753-1806) inspired the master Kunisada (1786-1865). Kunisada was a pupil of Toyokuni (1769-1825) who was Utamaro’s closest competitor and rival and also had studied him closely.
Utamaro’s image presents us a coarse, bearded and unattractive male has roughly interrupted the romantic get together of a couple. He holds the man in check by pressing his knee in his neck as he pulls his head backwards by pulling his tail. The frightened female tries to flee into the bathroom but her persevering assailant has already a tight grip on the black belt of her kimono.
In Kunisada’s intepretation as used in his The Eight Dog Heroes of the Satomi Clan-series he shows the protagonists in the same fashion, only he adds a more sensational, graphic flavor (as the public at that time demanded) to the scene. Here, the frightened woman is partially undressed and her private parts are shown unambiguously while her heavily tattooed assailant holds on to the collar of her kimono. Utamaro’s sliding doors are replaced by a mosquito-net that now serves as a “prison” for the lover of the woman.
Both pieces are available in our gallery and more info can be found by clicking the concerning image..!!
Do you prefer Utamaro’s understated style or does Kunisada’s sensational version appeal more to you?
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