AKA Toyokuni III, Utagawa
Born 1786, Kunisada was admitted to study under Toyokuni, head of the Utagawa school at age 14. Kunisada’s work embodies the characteristics of the Utagawa school, focusing on traditional subjects such as kabuki, bijin (beautiful women), shunga (erotic prints), and historical prints. His first known print dates to 1807. Kunisada’s career took off from the beginning. Many of his works became overnight successes and he was considered the “star attraction” of the Utagawa school. He signed his works “Kunisada,” sometimes with the studio names of Gototei and Kochoro affixed. In 1844, he adopted the name of his teacher and became Toyokuni III. Kunisada passed away in 1864 in the same neighborhood that he was born. He was the most popular ukiyo-e artist of the 19th century although his contemporaries Hiroshige, Hokusai, and Kuniyoshi have now equaled or exceeded him.