UVaM - University of Virginia Art Museum


Kitagawa Utamaro
Japanese, c. 1753-1806
The Courtesan Chozan from Chojiya, c. 1800
Color woodblock print,
15 x 10 inches
Museum Purchase with funds from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation,

Like Hiroshige, Utamaro is a quintessential and even emblematic Ukiyo-e artist who had a major influence on European Impressionists of the nineteenth century. Although often admired for his elegant serenity and Classical beauty and restraint (in supposed contrast to later and wilder Ukiyo-e artists), Utamaro has at times been accused of having an obsession with the high-class courtesans of the Yoshiwara district. His lyrical and deeply affecting observations of the everyday detail of the lives of these women may have opened the eyes of Western artists but also exposed him to accusations of "decadence" and voyeurism. The elongated loveliness of his women, whose kimonos have wave-like rhythms, has been called mannered by some and by others, indicative of the spiritual or idealistic nature of his "obsession." Utamaro was, however, capable of making equally lovely, observant, and moving pictures of mothers and children.