Edo artist Kitao Shigemasa: A story to join

Edo artist Kitao Shigemasa: A story to join

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kitao Shigemasa (1739-1820) belongs to the Edo Period of Japan. He was born in Nihonbashi, which is now a wealthy part of modern-day Tokyo. Hence, one can imagine the impact of the floating world – and the vibrancy of art, crafts, and other cultural traits that appealed to Shigemasa.

In these art pieces, it is like a story is being written. However, it is difficult to know the true meaning: irrespective of whether the meanings are mundane – or more dramatic.

Not a lot is written in the English world about many aspects of his early life. Thus it is like another jigsaw without countless pieces. Despite this – and with Shigemasa being originally self-taught – these lovely images conjure up an array of ideas concerning the cultural angles he highlights.

Scholten Japanese Art says, “At the advent of full-color printing in 1765, Shigemasa focused his energies on designing primarily for illustrated books (ehon), producing over 250 in his lifetime, many of which were erotic in nature. With a comparatively small output of single sheet designs, the scarcity of extant Shigemasa prints belies his talent and influence.” 

He taught students many angles of art and other areas of his work. Notable students include Kitao Masanobu and Kubo Shunman. Both individuals were notable in other fields. For example, writing and poetry: Shunman did poetry to some art pieces produced by Eishi, Hokusai, and Utamaro.

Overall, his legacy is important despite his real expertise being illustrated books. Thus the delightful art pieces in this article highlight another trait of his art.


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