Katsukawa Shunshō and Japanese Art (1726-1793): Major Influence in the Edo Period

Katsukawa Shunshō and Japanese Art (1726-1793): Major Influence in the Edo Period

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The Japanese artist called Katsukawa Shunshō isn’t particularly famous outside of Japan. Indeed, even in Japan, he is hardly among the first individuals to think about when focusing on artists during the Edo Period. Yet, Shunshō’s legacy is extremely rich based on the individuals he influenced.

A notable artistic theme covered by Shunshō applies to kabuki actors. He also is known to a lesser degree for focusing on bijin-ga (beautiful ladies). Of course, both themes provided artists with the opportunity to earn a living from these popular areas of ukiyo-e. Therefore, from a commercial point of view lay people were dragged into the painting and printmaking world based on the popularity of kabuki.

Naturally, Edo attracted people from far and wide so Shunshō followed a similar path. Initially, Shunshō desired to focus on painting and the poetic form called haiku. However, in time he would alter course to a significant degree after leaving the famous Torii School.

Irrespective of his personal artistic legacy, it is clear that his influence on other people within the Japanese art world outshines this. Of course, this isn’t to downplay the art of Shunshō. Yet, in all truth, it is abundantly clear that his students would carry on aspects of Shunshō’s influence. This notably applies to teaching Hokusai, Shunchō, Shun’ei, Shunko, and Shunzan.

Overall, Shunshō prospered greatly in Edo when it came to personal and artistic development. Equally, he maintained an independent spirit despite the obvious commercial side of focusing heavily on kabuki. Similarly, the individuals Shunshō taught and inspired means that he is fondly remembered in the art world of Japan.

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