the stylised cloud printed in gold and heavily embossed, make this print surely one of the highlights of Osaka printmaking. An earlier print, among the ones announcing the artist’s name change to Kunimasu, depicts the same actor. Also this print is a fine example of the artistic qualities and expensive taste of the artist, but now shown on chūban size [print 91]. Ebizō V is portrayed as the Hakkenden hero Inuyama Dosetsu, who is sheathing his sword after he has thrown off an opponent. The suggestion of action is enhanced with the hilt of the sword that breaks through the left vertical line of the image’s frame, and with the strong drawing of the hand clasping the hilt. Decorations on the actor’s garment show enriched textures executed with combinations of advanced printing techniques and metallic pigments. At top left appears a bat-shaped cartouche, emblem of both the artist and the portrayed actor. As a whole the image expresses threat and tension, in which a subtle part is reserved for the efficient shading of the dark background.
A third interesting example is an unusual chūban diptych of which the left panel shows a full-length figure, while the right panel depicts a bust portrait [print 105 a b]. At left appears Ichikawa Shikō as Hayano Kanpei in a kneeling position with one knee on the ground and leaning on his gun, and at right Arashi Rikan III is portrayed as the wounded Ono no
Sadakurō. Also here threat and tension are expressed by great artistic skill and calling forth a variety of printing techniques, but also interesting is the way the artist managed to weld the two panels together. This is not only achieved with the composition of the sky, mountains, smoke and pine-tree that fill the background as a whole. It is also realized by executing the background exclusively in tones of grey and combining this with a well considered balanced positioning of the coloured parts.
Prints like the ones reviewed here, and many other prints of the oeuvre, convincingly show the high artistic level and sophisticated taste of the artist. All things considered it is not surprising that several contemporary artists followed him on his heels. His influence continued for several years, despite the decline in his print production that became visible in 1850. From that time on, for unknown reasons he designed prints only occasionally and at long intervals.
In the fourth or fifth month of 1852 Sadamasu travelled to Edo, together with the Osaka artists Hirosada and Sadayoshi. Over there the three designed backgrounds and insets for prints of two series by Utagawa Kunisada.2 Most likely their contributions to Kunisada’s series were designed in a short span and published afterwards, at intervals, since the prints in question continued to appear after Hirosada had resumed his production in Osaka 8/1852.3 However, it is not excluded that Sadamasu and perhaps also Sadayoshi have stayed in Edo somewhat longer.
On two of the four contributions by Sadamasu, the artist declares being a pupil of Kunisada, and on one print he announces his name change to Kunimasu. More interesting is the contribution to the sets by Hirosada. The fact is that the backgrounds and insets exclusively are designed by pupils of Kunisada, which implies that Hirosada definitely has been a pupil of the popular printmaker of Edo. This seems to underpin the idea that Hirosada and Sadahiro may have been one and the same person. In addition it is interesting to conclude from the signature of Hirosada on his three contributions to the series, that he considered himself a pupil of Kunimasu (i.e. Sadamasu).4 It not only indicates that the influence of his former teacher Kunisada was surpassed by the artistic and assumed financial support of Sadamasu, but it also implies that Kunisada estimated Sadamasu’s fame in Osaka higher than the artist’s position in the hierarchy of the Utagawa school.
Although his influence seems to have continued for some time after he returned to Osaka, Sadamasu’s production must have declined to a large extent, since a chūban diptych and a single-sheet chūban are the only recorded works from this period. The latter is a portrayal of Jitsukawa Ensaburō I, published 11/1854 and possibly his last print [print 135]. The reason for the sudden decline is unknown. Nor do we know anything of later activity of the artist. However, impressions of hitherto unknown prints will undoubtedly be discovered that provide us with valuable additional information on Sadamasu’s career and oeuvre, perhaps even being the key to some of the unsolved questions.