1. The suggested publishing date of 9/1837 for Sadamasu’s chūban bust portrait of Nakamura Utaemon IV in an unidentified role is still a matter of discussion [print 21].

2. See for a detailed account on the development of the Osaka chūban style: Doesburg, W.J. van, Utagawa Sadamasu, creator of the Osaka chūban style, in Andon 36, pp. 111-119.

3. Prints showing the stylistic device in question are found among the work of e.g. Gigadō Ashiyuki (active 1813-1833) and Seiyōsai Shunshi (active 1826-1828).

4. Toshidama literally means ‘New Year’s Jewel’. Originally the meaning was incorporated in a sign symbolising a gift or good luck. The Toshidama seal used by the members of the Utagawa school is a syntheses of a ring (a globular shaped jewel) and the ideogram for toshi (year) in stylised script.

5. Hasegawa Sadanobu (1809-1879) generally is considered identical with the artist Sadanobu who is mentioned as a pupil of Kunisada on the Toyokuni I memorial stone erected 8/1828. His first print published in Osaka dates from 1/1834. A few prints signed Sadanobu ga and Naniwatei Sadanobu ga, published early 1820s in Osaka, may be by a different artist. See Lühl, H., Wellenblumen, pp. 61-62; Lühl, H., Helden Schurken Kurtisanen, pl. 59; Matsudaira, S., Shodai Hasegawa Sadanobu hanga sakuhin ichiran, plates 1-3.

The Tenpō Reforms

The print production in Osaka was brought to a standstill in 1842. Due to years of economic recession during the Tenpō period (1830-1843), several governmental measures were promulgated. The effect of the measures reached its height in Osaka in the spring of 1842. A few months later, in the seventh month of the year, a ban on producing and selling actor prints was announced, resulting in nearly five years of social and cultural soberness. The last actor prints published in Osaka in 1842 are those related to the kabuki performances of the third month of that year. No actor prints were published in Osaka until the spring of 1847, but it is hard to believe that the artists sat back and left their brushes untouched. Undoubtedly the sketching and designing went on, and, although the number of kabuki performances was severely limited, the artists probably took every opportunity to attend performances, after the show of course entrusting their impressions to a piece of paper.

During this period of the print ban in Osaka, Sadamasu and Sadahiro paid a visit to Edo, where they designed insets for two prints by Kunisada, their former teacher. The prints belong to the series Dai Nihon rokujūyoshū no uchi, published in Edo c. 1845.1 Kunisada signed the prints with his new name Toyokuni, which he had adopted in 1844.2 Some pupils of the popular artist followed the change consequently and substituted Sada, the first character of their name, for Kuni. Among them was Sadamasu, but from his signature Toyokuni monjin (pupil) Sadamasu ga that appears in the inset of print 52 of the series, it is obvious that the artist had not yet altered his name at that time (figure 4). It is remarkable that he used a character for masu here that differs from the one usually seen in his signature. It appears only on one other print of the artist [print 80].

It appears that Sadamasu has changed his name to Kunimasu soon after the publication of the prints in Edo. The fact is that he is listed as Kunimasu in Ōsaka shōkō meika shū, a printed directory of Osaka published in 1846. However, at that time he could not announce his name change officially on prints in Osaka since the ban on publishing prints was not yet lifted there.

Sadamasu's career beeld

Figure 4.

Kunisada (Toyokuni III). An ōban print with inset picture by Sadamasu, who used the character 益 for masu in his signature here. Published by Kogaya Katsugorō in Edo, c. 1845.

Collection: British Museum.