Re:- Toyokuni II:- facts and fiction

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Posted by Theo de Kreijger on May 25, 2003 at 02:55:18:

In Reply to: Re:- Toyokuni II:- facts and fiction posted by Dan McKee on May 24, 2003 at 00:36:23:

Dear Dan,

The book "Toyokuni to Hokushu: Kamigata Edo Yakusha-e Meishoten" was a good suggestion! It has been ordered and I'm looking forward to it :o)

Stylistic change in ukiyo-e has always been of interest to me. Of course you are right that we should take great care not to attribute stylistic movements to much to the individual artists. But (and yes I also agree with that) there still remains the individual need of such an artist "to put his name on the map" by producing creative experiments that discriminates him from the rest. And also feeds his own interest to go on as an artist.

The idea is growing that this might have been Toyoshige's problem. When I go through the Waseda site I find between 1826 and 1833 a declining quality in design of the dip- and triptychs with kabuki scenes signed Toyokuni (II). Some of the last ones are simply BAD products and perhaps caused by disinterest or incapability (of his pupils?). In contrast to that the single heads are very good (single portrait) and rival in quality with to the ones produced by Kunisada (single portrait) during that period. The most striking ones are his last double portraits (example 1) of wich I recently found one at ebaY's. They are very bold and (what I think) rather modern designs for the period. Correct me if I'm wrong, but they look unlike any of the large bust portraits untill then. I even wonder if Kunisada had already made such double portraits before that time. However, Kunisada made some nice sets in the 1850s and the 1860s.

The Waseda site dates the double portraits (example 2) in 1832, but my humble research brought them one year later in 1833 (based upon the actors and the play). If this is true then they must be one of the last series he ever did. What if this last creative effort (example 3) was neglected and what if the public already thought his name was on to many 3rd rate dip- and triptychs? Did he just simply quit disappointed? Did the publisher force him to because of declining sales?

At least I hope to have described a set of prints that are stylistically discriminating him from for example Kunisada during that period (and certainly from Toyokuni I).

By the way: is it correct that the signature on these prints reads "‘gyoko Toyokuni Ga"? Never saw him using this pen name before ...


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