primarily known as a designer of surimono and who was active in Osaka 1822-1825.6 These facts, especially when combined with details concerning three other artists, linked with the Utagawa school, justify the idea that Sadamasu somehow may have been active in the field of printmaking before he studied with Utagawa Kunisada in Edo. The three artists in question are Sadahiro, Sadamaru, and Sadayoshi.



Sadamasu's career beeld

Figure 1.

Shigenao (Nobukatsu) and Kunihiro. An ōban diptych depicting Arashi Rikan II as Kizu no Kansuke (l.), and Ichikawa Ebijūrō II as Horiguchi Manemon (r.), in Sao no uta Kizugawa hakkei, Kado Theatre, 7/1829. Published by Tenmaya Kihei. Signed: Ryūkyōtei Shigenao ga (l.), Kunihiro ga (r.).

Private collection.


Sadahiro is listed on the Toyokuni I memorial stone as a pupil of Kunisada. He returned to Osaka briefly in 1830, returned again in 1835, and then started building a career as an Osaka printmaker.7 He was befriended with Sadamasu, who undoubtedly had met him as a fellow student in Edo, and maybe the two knew each other already before that time. Later in his career Sadahiro may have changed his name to Hirosada (see hereafter) and then considered himself no longer a pupil of Kunisada but of Sadamasu’s. The change of teacher is not only to be ascribed to the artistic influence of Sadamasu. It also makes clear that Sadamasu held an important position in the Utagawa school and suggests that the position was firmly embedded in the past.

Sadamaru (i.e. Sadamaro) collaborated with Nobukatsu on one print mentioned in the foregoing.8 He became a student of Kunisada after 8/1828 and was soon allowed to use the surname Utagawa. Sadamaru may have returned to Osaka together with Sadamasu. He was active in Osaka 1832-1833. Also Utagawa Sadayoshi (active 1832-1853) studied with Kunisada after 8/1828. He may have returned to Osaka in the company of Sadamasu and Sadamaru, since his first print published in Osaka is dated 4/1832, but it also is possible that the three returned from Edo individually, at short intervals.

With their period of training and study these artists and a few others not only have brought the style concept of the Utagawa school to Osaka, but have also linked Osaka printmaking of the 1830s with different aspects of the artistic circles of the 1820s.


In the early and mid 1830s the leading artists Hokuei and Shigeharu, together with publishers, capable block-cutters, and printers, achieved technically brilliant results on their prints (figure 2). Several of these prints belong to the apogee of the colour printing technique, especially the surimono-style prints, the ones that are produced most luxuriously. After his collaboration with Hokuei in the first month of 1832, Sadamasu apparently designed only a small number of prints in the following years. In some he distinguished himself artistically from other artists of the time, as for instance in a large surimono commissioned by the Kataoka actors’ family, and in a tetraptych with a view of Mount Tenpō [prints 6 a and 7 a b c d]. On the last, with its unusual subject for an Osaka print of that period, the artist added to his signature that he was a pupil of Kunisada.