3. Keyes, R., Hirosada Ōsaka Printmaker, p.13.
4. Among the first prints published in the post-reform period are four vertical hosoban (c. 38 x 17 cm.) prints signed Sadahiro (see Schwaab, D.J., Osaka Prints, pl. 198, and Mita Arts catalogue 23, pl. 170-174). With these prints, presumably published c. 3/1847, Sadahiro reintroduced his name to the Osaka print public. Meanwhile he probably had made the decision to adopt a new name, just like the befriended artist Sadamasu had done about a year before. By doing this both artists followed their former teacher, Kunisada, who had changed his name to Toyokuni in 1844. When changing the name Sadahiro consequently, the character for Sada should be replaced with that for Kuni, which results in the name Kunihiro. However, in Osaka there already was an artist going by that name. Realizing this, it is likely that Sadahiro chose to reverse the two characters, judging from the signature Hirokuni appearing on four koban prints published shortly before 5/1847 (see e.g. Lühl, H., Helden Schurken Kurtisanen, pl. 198). Then, 5/1847 a print appeared on which Hirokuni, for unknown reasons, announced to change his name to Hirosada. The same month a hosoban print followed that showed much resemblance to the four hosoban mentioned above, but this time signed Hirosada (see Mita Arts catalogue 23, pl. 169; two of the six represented roles refer to a performance dated 5/1847).
In this brief list of succession of events, one important link is still missing. It is a print on which Sadahiro announces changing his name to Hirokuni. In consequence the link is explained from other works up to now. First, there exists a print with a hand-stamped seal reading Sadahiro that is added to the signature okonomi ni tsuki (after my own taste) Hirosada (see Keyes, R., op. cit., p. 25, Figure 11). Secondly, a diptych is recorded of which the left panel is signed Sadahiro, while the right panel is signed Hirosada (see Keyes, R. and Mizushima, K., The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints, pl. 66).
Finally, a koban diptych should be mentioned that is related to a performance dated 11/1847. Since the diptych is signed Sadahiro it is inconsistent with the succession of events mentioned in the foregoing (see Lühl, H., op. cit., pl. 199). Further study of prints and old documents is needed to solve this interesting matter of identity conclusively.
The Kunimasu years
For some reason Sadamasu was not among the artists resuming the print production in the spring of 1847. He took up the thread with two koban diptychs, each printed on a chūban paper or perhaps originally combined on a sheet of ōban [prints 82 and 83]. Two panels bear the signature Sadamasu, followed by a bat-shaped seal that also is known from some of his earlier prints. Apparently he preferred reminding the print public first to his earlier name, just like Sadahiro had done, before announcing his new name on prints (see hereafter). The first prints on which he announced his name change to Kunimasu, are published in the fifth month of 1848.1 They are a chūban triptych and three chūban single-sheet prints, in the next three months followed by a few more prints announcing the name change. In many aspects the prints of his new production invariably show that the artist had maintained his artistic level as well as the facilities to have them elaborately executed. The total of his prints published between mid 1848 and mid 1851 is about the same as the total he produced during his active period from late 1839 to early 1842. So, in his later period he was not unproductive at all, as is sometimes suggested, but of course his output in those years is very small compared to Hirosada’s enormous oeuvre.
Many of Sadamasu’s prints of this period are beautiful examples of the chūban style that he had pioneered around 1840 and now continued to develop. His creativity and influence had not diminished yet, and again quite a few artists followed him or were guided by him. Some of them are recorded as a pupil of Kunimasu (i.e. Sadamasu) and for that reason it is thought that the artist had managed to create a school of his own shortly after the time he resumed his print production (see hereafter).
Several of the artist’s later prints belong to the best of the period and a few even are among the best of the Osaka genre. Of the last, a magnificent bust portrait of the actor Ichikawa Ebizō V should be mentioned. With its ōban size it is one of the very few exceptions to his chūban of the later period [print 116]. The actor is portrayed as Kumagai Jirō Naozane. He is placed in a rectangular frame with bevelled corners that is brought about by a single black line. The artistically well-considered combination of elements such as the facial expression with its powerful make-up and bulging eyes, the beautiful ornaments on the dark coat that are printed in a variety of metallic pigments, the plain passage of saturated vermilion, and