Utamaro: Ukiyo-e Images of Women in Late Eighteenth-century Japan

Utamaro reinterprets the famous Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806) in the context of his times. Utamaro became one of the most influential artists working in the genre of ukiyo-e, the pictures of the floating world, in late eighteenth-century Japan, and was widely appreciated for his prints of beautiful women. By drawing on a wide range of period sources, making a close study of selected print sets, and employing newer approaches in literature, art history, area, and gender studies, Davis reconstructs the place of the ukiyo-e artist within the commercial print market and demonstrates how Utamaro's images participated in a larger spectacle of gender and identity in the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo). Utamaro's authorial persona was defined through the print medium as an artist and an expert on women, marketing connoisseurial values for both art and the female body within Edo's entertainment culture. The notorious censorship of Utamaro and his colleagues in 1804 evidences how much this appropriation of cultural authorship also posed a challenge to the political establishment. The book thus offers a new approach to issues of the status of the artist and the construction of gender, identity, sexuality, and celebrity in the Edo period. A significant contribution to the field, this book will be appreciated by readers interested in Japanese arts and cultures, gender and women's studies, and in the broader issues of art history and cultural studies.