Kitagawa Utamaro: The Enduring Beauty of Japan

Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806) was a Japanese printmaker and painter. He is known for his elegantly restrained studies of women called bijinga or "beautiful person picture". The style is a part of the genre called Ukiyo-e, "pictures of the floating world", woodcut prints featuring motifs of landscapes, kabuki theater, courtesans and geisha. It is a world that is ephemeral and of the moment. Utamaro also created many erotic works including the Poem of the Pillow. One scene depicts two abalone divers interacting with two kappas, or sea monsters. In the nineteenth century the ukyio-e prints of Utamaro and other Japanese artists became available to the European market resulting in the development of Japonisme in the West.