1. See Toyokuni sensei eihitsu no kihi, in Yoshida, T., Ukiyo-e jiten, vol. 2, p. 271.

2. Keyes, R. and Mizushima, K., The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints, p. 315, XI.

3. Ryūsai Shigeharu was active 1821-1840s or later. He was a pupil of Utagawa Kunihiro (and Yanagawa Shigenobu?). His early name was Kunishige, until 7/1826.

4. See for the two prints: Kuroda, G., Kamigata-e ichiran, pl. 103, and Doesburg, W.J. van, Ōsaka Kagami, pl. 69. Nobukatsu was active as Shigenao until 9/1829 (see e.g. Matsudaira, S., Kamigata yakusha-e shūsei, vol. 3, pl. 570). His Ryūkyōtei, of which the first character is also pronounced Yana, appears on a print dated 7/1829. It refers directly or indirectly to the artist Yanagawa Shigenobu, who may have been his teacher for some time. The signature on a print dated 8/1829 reveals that Shigenao was a pupil of Shigeharu by then (see e.g. Keyes, R., and Mizushima, K., op. cit., cat. no. 268).

5. Yanagawa Shigenobu studied with Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and in the early 1810s seems to have begun his career as an illustrator of books. Soon he developed a sophisticated taste and increasingly applied deluxe pigments and printing techniques. In the 1820s his prints show an increasing influence of the Utagawa school. He is best known for his surimono, usually depicting beautiful women. His works that are produced and/or published during his stay in Osaka, 1822-1825, invariably show detailed carving and surimono-style printing. Among these prints is an ōban print series depicting courtesans participating in the costume parade of the Shinmachi District in Osaka. It seems likely Shigenobu has played a part in the development of the Osaka surimono style, if only by encouraging some publishers, befriended artists, or pupils, to include certain characteristics of the style in the process of printmaking. 

6. The and surnames are: Ryūkyōtei, Yanagawa, Ryūsai, and Gyokuryūtei.

7. For details on Sadahiro, see Keyes, R., Hirosada Ōsaka Printmaker, pp. 9-18.

8. Kuroda, G., op. cit., pl. 103.

9. Keyes, R., op. cit., note 14, pp. 20-21.

Chūban prints

In the ninth month of 1837 Sadamasu portrayed Nakamura Utaemon IV (i.e. Shikan II) again full length, but this time he designed a print for the half-block or chūban format, measuring roughly 18 x 25 cm. [print 17]. It is interesting to see that the composition, the pose, the facial expression, and several other elements of the image, have a lot in common with the portrayal of Shikan II mentioned in the previous chapter. In addition, as Sadamasu’s chūban is executed in surimono style, it also has a lot in common with the chūban seen in the oeuvre of his predecessors Hokushū and, notably, Ashiyuki. As far as we know this is the earliest of Sadamasu’s chūban prints, after which he was going to develop a chūban style of his own, preceding the so-called Osaka chūban style for which Hirosada for a long time was held responsible.1 Hirosada was by far the most productive Osaka artist in the late 1840s and early 1850s, almost exclusively using the chūban format, but he was not the great pioneer of the Osaka chūban style. The style in question did not all of a sudden emerge in the beginning of 1847. There appears to be a clear link with the development in the four years that preceded the promulgation of the Tenpō Reforms in 1842.2

Up to the late 1830s the chūban format was only occasionally used in Osaka, but from 1838 onwards it gradually gained interest. Different artists participated in the process, but it is Sadamasu who has popularised the format and accounted for more than half of the total chūban production between 1838 and early 1842. In the eighth month of 1839 he created the first two prints showing the principal characteristics of the majority of the chūban prints dating from the late 1840s and early 1850s [print 41 a b]. The features meant here are the following ones. The prints show close-up portraits of actors that are drawn with a bold directness and placed in a frame brought about by a somewhat broad line or by two thin parallel black