Utagawa Kuniaki II

Utagawa Kuniaki II 二代 歌川国明 (1835-1888)   

BIOGRAPHY

Sources: A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 95; The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints, Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing Company, 2005, Volume 2, p. 503.

Utagawa Kuniaki II, was born to the Hirasawa (or Hirazawa) 平沢 family and later adopted by the Hachisuka 蜂須賀 family.1 His familiar name was Onojirō 斧二郎. He was the younger brother of, or perhaps the same person as, the artist known as Utagawa Kuniaki I and the same prints are sometimes attributed to one or the other. He studied with Utagawa Kunisada I (1786–1865) and in addition to Kuniaki 国明 he used the artist names () Hōsai 鳳斎, Ippōsai 一鳳斎, Ichiosai 一凰齋, Onojirō 斧二郎 and Hachisuka 蜂須賀.


His genre included prints of wrestlers (sumo-e), actors (yakusha-e), beauties (bijin-ga) and westerners (Yokohama-e). While considered a minor artist of his time, his print The Wrestler Onaruto Nadaemon of Awa Province (see below) became famous, as it is pictured in Manet's 1868 portrait of Emile Zola (see below.)


1 The British Museum website https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG3372 [accessed 12-26-23] tells us of a different origin of the artist stating that Kuniaki's father, Tatsunosuke, was a minor samurai in the fourteenth division of castle guards.   

The Wrestler Onaruto Nadaemon

of Awa Province, 1860

Utagawa Kuniaki II (1835-1888)

Portrait of Émile Zola, 1868

oil on canvas 

Édouard Manet (1832–1883)

Signatures and Seals of the Artist (a sampling)

Kuniaki ga

国明画

Kuniaki ga

国明画

within Toshidama cartouche

ōju Kuniaki hitsu

應需 国明筆

ōju Kuniaki hitsu

應需 国明筆

with manji seal

ōju Kuniaki 

應需 国明

with manji seal

ōju Kuniaki 

應需 国明

with manji seal

Hachisuka Kuniaki ga 

蜂須賀国明画

Hachisuka Kuniaki hitsu 

蜂須賀国明筆

Hachisuka Kuniaki hitsu 

蜂須賀国明筆

with manji seal

Ippōsai Kuniaki ga

一鳳斎国明画

Ippōsai Kuniaki ga

一鳳斎国明 画

within Toshidama cartouche

Prints in Collection

[BELOW PRINTS GIFTED TO THE JORDAN SCHNITZER MUSEUM OF ART, UNIVERSITY OF OREGON]

click on thumbnail for print details