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Twelve Hours in the Pleasure Quarter: at Eight at Night

Twelve Hours in the Pleasure Quarter: at Eight at Night

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The old Japanese clock system was divided into twelve; each time was called the name of animals. “The time of dogs” is from eight to nine at night. Yoshiwara has two show times: day and night. The night show started from at around six, courtesan waited for the customers and sat on the scarlet carpet. This piece depicts a woman who cannot have any guests for two hours and she startes writing a note to a customer who is in favor of her. An assistant girl places the hands on the knee obediently and is listening to her saying keeling down on the tiptoes. A courtesan is leaning back and talking to the girl. The girls figure and the courtesans figure are supporting each other well: that makes the structure stable.

 

Utamaro Kitagawa(1753-1806)

1753 (Horeki 3) – 1806 (Bunka 3)

After Utamaro came under the tutelage of Sekien Toriyama, a painter of the Kano School, Juzaburo Tsutaya found him. Utamaro started drawing color woodblock prints and illustration books under his patronage. Around 1791, Utamaro adopted the style of okubi-e (portraits showing only the head or head and upper torso) to his drawings of beautiful women, and used popular teahouse women as his models. For these, he was recognized as the leading beauty painter of ukiyo-e. His beauty portraits influenced the era; people who saw Utamaro’s portraits came to the women’s house to catch a glimpse of them. Later, under the Kansei Reform, a series of conservative governmental measures limited many expressions. However, Utamaro did not give up, and played an active role in the golden age of ukiyo-e. In 1804, Utamaro was accused of violation of the law for drawing Hideyoshi Toyotomi, whom it was forbidden to portray. Utamaro died two years after this incident.

 

Utamaro Masterpieces

Utamaro Kitagawa(1753-1806)

These are the Utamaro Masterpieces, including the Six Famous Beauties. Utamaro left a variety of works; however, people mostly recognize his title as a painter of women, especially beautiful women. Despite the number of oppressions and limitations he faced, he challenged these circumstances and kept drawing pictures as he believed. He faced women straight-on and depicted their real lives, bodies and souls. He undertook keen observations. Two thirds of his works were depicted women in the Yoshiwara district and courtesans. However, he also developed other themes, such as the affection of mother and child in old towns, and well-known teahouse girls. These thirty masterpieces stand as the culmination of Utamaro’s ukiyo-e illustrations of beautiful women.

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