Utagawa Toshimasa

Utagawa Toshimasa 歌川年昌 (Shunsai Toshimasa 春斎年昌) (1866-1913) 


Little has been written about this student of the great Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), who is best known for a single work, Origin of Music and Dance at the Rock Door, shown below. The only significant English language discussion of the artist is by Roger Keyes, who writes the following in his compilation of brief biographies of Yoshitoshi's students:

Eda Toshimasa 枝年昌, Shunsai 春斎

Too poor to enroll as a pupil, Toshimasa lived with Yoshtoshi and served as his rickshaw man and personal servant in exchange for lessons; Yoshitoshi helped arrange for his adoption by Utagawa Kunitama (Hōsai) an older artist, and he left Yoshitoshi's residence in May 1890; later studied with Kumaya Naohiko, using the name Sadahiko; said to have been the model for the figure of Kōmori Yasu in the diptych of Genyadana in the series Shinsen azuma nishikie; named on the Yoshitoshi memorial.1

Keyes also tells us that Yoshitoshi's younger students were supervised by Toshimasa.2

Most of Toshimasa's work was signed Shunsai 春斎 or Shunsai Toshimasa 春斎年昌 and his designs consisted mainly of sumo-e (wrestling prints), kaika-e (prints of modernity) and senso-e (war prints) of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895).

Keyes does not provide the birth or death dates of Toshimasa and while most references to this artist simply list that he was active from about 1870 until 1905, Andreas Marks provides definitive birth and death dates of 1866 and 1913.3 

This artist is also sometimes confused with an artist of an earlier generation named Katsukawa Shunsei (勝川 春斎) who was active from 1830 to 1840.

The Sun Goddess Amaterasu

Most interesting of all the artist's work is the below triptych titled Origin of Music and Dance at the Rock Door picturing the awakening of the sun-goddess Amaterasu after her self-imposed exile. 

Iwato kagura no kigen (岩戸神楽之起顕) 

Origin of Music and Dance at the Rock Door

Shunsai Toshimasa, Meiji 20 (1887)

Signatures and Seals Attributed to the Artist (a sampling)

[1] 春斎筆 Shunsai hitsu (c. 1870/1875); [2] 春斎筆 Shunsai hitsu (c. 1870/1875); [3] 春斎年昌筆 Shunsai Toshimasa hitsu; [4] 春斎年昌 Shunsai Toshimasa with unread seal (1887); [5] 春斎年昌 Shunsai Toshimasa (c. 1870/1875); [6] 春斎年昌 Shunsai Toshimasa with unread seal; [7] 春斎年昌 Shunsai Toshimasa (1894); [8] 年昌 Toshimasa with Toshimasa seal (1894); [9] 年昌Toshimasa; [10] 春斎年昌 Shunsai Toshimasa ga











1 Courage and Silence: A Study of the Life and Color Woodblock Prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: 1839-1892, Roger Keyes, The Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, 1982, p. 550.2 Publishers of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Compendium, Andreas Marks, Hotei Publishing, 2011, p. 573.

Prints in Collection


click on thumbnail for print details