Utagawa Yoshiiku

Photo of artist (date unknown)

Utagawa Yoshiiku 歌川芳幾 (1833-1904)  


Sources: William Wetherall's News Nishiki website http://members.jcom.home.ne.jp/yosha/nn/almanac/Almanac_whos_who.html [page no longer active 12-29-23]; The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints, Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing Company, 2005, p. 505. 

Utagawa Yoshiiku was a Japanese printmaker and illustrator. As a printmaker, he designed a wide range of prints including those depicting bijin (beautiful women), musha (warriors), yakusha (actors), and the sensationalized pictures of blood-stained mayhem called chimidoro-e and muzan-e, among others. From 1874 to 1875 he designed nishiki-e shinbun for the Tokyo newspaper Nichinichi Shimbun, which he co-founded.1

He was the son of a teahouse proprietor and attended the printmaking school of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) along with Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892), six years his junior. From this time dates a life-long rivalry with Yoshitoshi whom, it is reported, he bullied at school. Whether or not this allegation has any foundation, there would have been a natural rivalry between the two artists, particularly coming up in the same school, and competing for the master's (and later society's) recognition. In the late 1860s, Yoshiiku and Yoshitoshi collaborated on the production of the Eimei nijuhasshuku (Twenty-Eight Forms of Murder with Verse) series, two prints from which are shown below. Throughout the next two decades, they often shared the same writers and publishers. It was not the sort of world in which they could have let any bitterness between them get in the way of their work.

#13 Torii Matsusuke Carries the Recovered Severed Head of his Lord in this Teeth from the series

Twenty-Eight Forms of Murder with Verse, 1867

#4 Enjo Jizaemon Thwarts Vengeance as he Lays Dying at the Foot of a Statue at Sozenji from the series

Twenty-Eight Forms of Murder with Verse, 1867

His works include the prints Kokkei Wanisshi-ki (滑稽倭日史記) Comical Record of Japanese History, which employs the traditional theme of Hyakki Yakō2 on contemporary Japanese military actions in China.

His pupils included Takeda Ikumaru 武田幾丸 (active c. 1865-1873), Izumi Ikukatsu 泉幾勝 (active c. 1880s), Kobayashi Ikuhide (active c. 1885-1898), and the female artist Kimura Ikutoshi 木村幾年 (active c. 1860s). 

Signatures and Seals of the Artist (a sampling)

Yoshiiku's most common signatures were Keisai (恵齋) Yoshiiku and Ikkeisai (一恵斎) Yoshiiku. Other names included Utagawa Yoshiiku, Chōkarō, Sharakusai [Sairakusai], Keiami, Ochiai Yoshiiku 落合芳幾 (full name), Ochiai Ikujirōkarō 落合幾次郎 (real name). 

[1] from left to right: 朝霞楼芳幾画 Chōkarō Yoshiiku ga, 一恵斎芳幾画 Ikkeisai Yoshiiku ga and 一薫斎芳幾画 Ikkunsai Yoshiiku ga; [2] 一蕙齋芳幾 Ikkeisai Yoshiiku with 芳幾 Yoshiiku seal; [3] 一蕙齋芳幾筆 Ikkeisai Yoshiiku hitsu; [4] 一惠齋芳幾画 Ikkeisai Yoshiiku ga with  with yoshi kiri paulownia flower seal used by Kuniyoshi;  [5] Keisai Yoshiiku 恵斎芳幾 with 芳幾 Yoshiiku seal; [6] 朝霞樓芳幾画 Chōkarō Yoshiiku ga with yoshi kiri paulownia flower seal used by Kuniyoshi; [7] 〓 〓 樓芳一九画 ?? Yoshiiku ga; [8] 落合芳幾画 Ochiai Yoshiiku ga with unread seal; [9] 芳いく画 Yoshiiku ga










1 The founders of "Tokyo nichinichi shinbun" are: JOHNO Denpei (1832-1902, pseud. "Sansantei Arindo" as gesakusha: popular fiction writer), NISHIDA Densuke (1838-1910, former clerk of TSUJI Den'emon's kashihon'ya: lending library), and OCHIAI Ikujiro (1833-1904, pseud. "Utagawa Yoshiiku" as ukiyoe print artist).  (Source: Waseda University Library Rare Material Collection website https://www.wul.waseda.ac.jp/collect/b10/7017-7125-e.html [accessed 12-29-23]) For information on nishiki-e shinbun and early Meiji newspapers see Nishiki-e shinbun and Newspapers in Meiji Japan [accessed 12-29-23]2 an old folk belief, dating from the Heian period (794-1185), that one night each summer all sorts of terrifying beings make their way to the mountains to enjoy themselves with games and amusements, parading around at night and dispersing before dawn.   Japanese artists have rendered scenes of demonic creatures romping and cavorting at night through the Meiji period (1868-1912). 

Prints in Collection


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