Competition and Collaboration

Japanese Prints of the Utagawa School

The prolific Utagawa school is one of the most famous lineages of print artists in the history of Japanese woodblock prints. It was founded by Utagawa Toyoharu during the second half of the eighteenth century and remained active in Edo, present-day Tokyo, throughout the nineteenth century. During this period, Utagawa-school artists dominated virtually every genre of ukiyo-e prints, or “pictures of the floating world,” including pictures of beautiful women, prints of kabuki actors, warrior prints, erotica, and landscape pictures. Colorful, technically innovative, and sometimes defiant of government regulations, these prints documented for a popular audience the pleasures of urban life, leisure, and travel. The diverse works by Utagawa Kunisada, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Utagawa Hiroshige, and others reflected the changing social, economic, and political conditions present during the closing century of the Edo period (1615-1868) and early years of the Meiji period (1868-1912).
This 232-page groundbreaking catalogue features full-color images of more than 200 prints from the renowned Van Vleck Collection of Japanese Prints at the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin–Madison. This collection – a number of which were once part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal collection of Japanese prints – is particularly noteworthy for its strong holdings of landscape prints including rare designs incorporating western perspective by the school’s founder Toyoharu. The book includes explicated entries for each work, artist biographies, and five scholarly essays about Japanese print culture and the Utagawa school.

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Laura J. Mueller, guest curator for the exhibition Competition and Collaboration: Japanese Prints of the Utagawa School at the Chazen Museum of Art, and doctoral candidate in Japanese art history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison specializing in the study and research of Japanese woodblock prints. She is author of Strong Women, Beautiful Men: Japanese Portrait Prints from the Toledo Museum of Art (2005).
Fujisawa Akane, lecturer of Japanese literature at Gakushūin University in
Tokyo. She published Ukiyo-e of the Utagawa School and the Edo Publishing
World: Kabuki Actor Prints
Kobayashi Tadashi, professor of Japanese art history at Gakushūin University in
Tokyo and director of the Chiba City Museum of Art. His recent publications include Masterpieces of Landscape: Ukiyo-e Prints from the Honolulu Academy of Arts (2003) and Suzuki Harunobu (2002).
Ellis Tinios, honorary lecturer in the School of History, University of Leeds; research associate at the Japan Research Centre, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and special assistant to the Japanese Section of the Department of Asia, British Museum. He is the author of Mirror of the Stage: The Actor Prints of Kunisada (1996), and On the Margins of the City: Recreation on the Periphery of Edo (with Paul Waley, 1999).

Establishing a Lineage: The Utagawa School and Japan’s Print Culture Laura J. Mueller

Ukiyo-e Artists and Their Patrons: The Case of Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) and the Wealthy Merchant Mitani Chōzaburō Kobayashi Tadashi

The Mutual Flowering of the Utagawa School and Kabuki Fujisawa Akane

Warrior Prints and the Double-edged Sword of Loyalty Ellis Tinios

Creative Specialization and Collaborative Projects Laura J. Mueller

Establishing a Name: Utagawa Toyoharu

The Studios of Toyohiro and Toyokuni

Creative Specialization: Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, and Kunisada

Collaborative Works

Utagawa Style and Market Dominance

Claiming the Lineage: Later Artists of the Utagawa School

Artist Biographies
The Artistic Lineage of the Utagawa School
Scholars, collectors and general audience interested in Japanese prints and prints of the Utagawa school in particular.