Utamaro II’s date of birth is unknown (he died in 1831) but he was first a pupil of the popular author/illustrator Koikowa Harumachi. After his death he adopted the name Koikowa Harumachi II. It is said that he married the widow of his second mentor, Utamaro (1753-1806), thenceforth calling himself Utamaro II. Since he had worked closely with his master in his last years, Utamaro II continued the business as Utamaro had done before. He continued to design woodblock prints, mostly in the bijin-e (genre of beautiful women) in a similar style as he and his master did before and also signing as Utamaro I. He did this until 1820 after which he changed his name in Kitagawa Tetsugoro.
In the past Utamaro II has been unjustly called “A minor figure, feebly imitating the great master” by the archaic author Laurance P. Roberts. The problem is that Western art scholars from the early 19th century and beyond looked at ukiyo-e from a romantic perspective and the idea of the artist getting up in the morning transforming his divine inspirations into art works while the Japanese artists at the time saw themselves as artisans making a living. Although Utamaro II worked in close traditon of his great master he was a very crafted and skillful artisan who maintained his master’s high level of producing new ukiyo-e.
Anyway, you can judge his craftmanship for yourself below…
A wealthy merchant and a high-class geisha amusing themselves on a pleasure boat. (Early 1800s) Designed by Kitagawa Utamaro II.
Striking scene with an older woman watching a younger couple making love, while using a cucumber to satisfy herself.
A samurai and courtesan found a quiet spot for their love-making in the backyard. It is the beginning of Spring with butterflies floating around them.
A wild rape scene with two grimy samurai attacking a frightened female. The acts of rape portrayed in shunga often feature hairy men with unshaven faces.
In a snowy garden an intimate couple is disturbed by two agressive dogs.
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