Utagawa Kunimasa IV

Utagawa Kunimasa IV 四代 歌川国政 (1848 – 1920)  


Sources: Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints:1900 – 1975, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii. 1992, p. 14; The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints, Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing Company, 2005, Volume 2, p. 503 and as footnoted.

Originally born in Asakusa with the name Takenōchi Hidehisa 竹内栄久1, the artist used multiple (artist names) during his career including Baidō Hōsai 梅堂豊斎, Baidō Kunimasa 梅堂国政, Kōchōrō 香朝楼, Kunimasa 国政 IV, Kunisada 国貞 III and Toyokuni V 五代 豊国. Early in his career he used the Kunimasa IV and Baidō Hōsai. In 1889 he succeeded as head of the Utagawa line and took the Kunisada III. Later in his career he claimed the title Toyokuni IV, but that was already taken (a fact that he refused to recognize), so he is referred to as Toyokuni V.  However, this conflicts with reports that Utagawa Kunimatsu 歌川国松 (1855-1944) was also known as Utagawa Toyokuni V.

He studied under Toyokuni III at age 11 and then under Utagawa Kunisada I (1786–1865) and Utagawa Kunisada II (1823-1880).

He specialized in Meiji actor prints and along with the older artist Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900) is considered by some as the best of the yakusha-e (actor prints) artists. He also designed senso-e (war prints), kaika-e (pictures of modernization), e-hon (book illustrations), senjafuda (privately published votive slips) and a type of game board, e-sugoroku. The Yomiuri shinbun recognized Kunimasa as a major designer of the very popular oshi-e (embossed fabric pictures) usually mounted on battledores. 

His eldest son was the artist Utagawa Kokunimasa (1874-1944).

"Hōsai died from illness, age 72, on 26 October 1920 at his home in Asakusa-tamachi.  Following his death, his role in the history of Meiji actor prints was largely forgotten and overshadowed by the accomplishments of the more prolific, and creative, figure of Kunichika.  But perhaps we should re-assess Hōsai's role and accord him a position, if not the most innovative of designers, then at least as a final figure in the long line of Utagawa school actor image makers."2

1 "In the preface to a series of interviews with Baido Hosai (Kunimasa IV) the Yomiuri shinbun cites his family name as Takenouchi Eikyū. [Source: "The Shadow of Another: Introducing the 'Meiji no Edokko' Baidō Hōsai," Amy Reigle Newland, Andon 89 (December 2010), p. 11.]2 "The Shadow of Another: Introducing the 'Meiji no Edokko' Baidō Hōsai," Amy Reigle Newland, Andon 89 (December 2010), p. 21.

An In Depth Look at the Artist Baidō Hōsai

A fascinating and in-depth article on the artist titled "In the Shadow of Another: Introducing the 'Meiji no Edokko' Baidō Hōsai" by Amy Reigle Newland can be found in Andon 89 (December 2010), the bulletin of the Society for Japanese Arts.

Signatures and Seals of the Artist (a sampling)

For additional signatures and seals of the artist see Amy Reigle Newland's article, p. 25-26 appearing in Andon 89 (December 2010) and referenced above.

梅堂国政 筆

Baidō Kunimasa hitsu

梅堂国政 筆

Baidō Kunimasa hitsu with Toshidama seal


梅堂豊斎 筆

Baidō Hōsai hitsu


梅堂国政 画

Baidō Kunimasa ga

梅堂国政 図

Baidō Kunimasa zu with Toshidama seal (1877)

香朝楼国貞 筆 Kōchōrō Kunisada hitsu with Toshidama seal

香朝楼豊斎 筆

Kōchōrō Hōsai hitsu with Baidō seal

香朝楼豊斎 筆

Kōchōrō  Hōsai hitsu with Hōsai seal


香朝楼 筆

Ōju Kōchōrō hitsu with Toshidama seal 

豊斎 筆

Hōsai hitsu, with Baidō seal, 1897

歌川豊斎 筆

 Utagawa Hōsai hitsu, with Baidō seal, 1903

豊斎 筆

Hōsai hitsu with Toshidama seal


梅堂 筆 Baidō hitsu (1894)

Prints in Collection


click on thumbnail for print details