Dreams of Desire 63 (Utamaro)

Kitagawa Utamaro-Lovers in the Upstairs Room of a Teahouse 1788
The Meiji Restoration in 1868 opened Japan’s ports again to foreign trade after 200 years of international isolation. Soon Japanese art and artefacts found their way to Paris and London which resulted in a craze known as Japonisme. Ukiyo-e, particularly the works of the masters, Hokusai, Hiroshige and Kitagawa Utamaro, would have a profound effect upon the first of all modern art movements, Impressionism.

Utamaro was renowned for his psychologically astute portraits of courtesans. Employing sophisticated compositional techniques of partial views, striking mannerism and subtle gradients of light and shade, Utamaro was collected by many luminaries of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, notably Degas, Gaugain and Toulouse-Lautrec. The serenity of his female studies were clearly a major influence on the ground-breaking female artist Mary Cassett.

Utamaro, like every ukiyo-e artist produced a large body of shunga. His sensitivity to female beauty combined with the intimacy and tenderness of many of the scenes portrayed rank among the finest examples of erotic art.

20 thoughts on “Dreams of Desire 63 (Utamaro)

  1. Lovely article about the erotic element of ukiyo-e. It would be great to see you blog something about their landscape prints. When I visited Japan earlier this year, I saw a print of a shrine in the rain at dawn which was, quite simply, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much Penny. I am no expert on ukiyo-e, though I like it a lot and I do agree that some of the landscapes are very beautiful and sublime. I did feature Hokusai’s The Great Wave in my previous post and I will learn up and hopefully write about the landscapes in the future.


    1. Kimonos feature heavily in shunga, in fact the women are rarely naked. Nudity wasn’t seen as intrinsically erotic as mixed bathing was a common practice back in the day. Hopefully I do the subjects justice. Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

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