Katsukawa Shunsho (勝川春章)

Shunsho KATSUKAWA (1726 - January 19, 1793) was an ukiyoe artist in the Edo period. His real last name is unknown, but his nickname was Yosuke (or Yusuke). He studied under Shunsui Miyagawa. As an artist, he used the surname of Miyagawa or Katsumiyagawa at first, and later Katsukawa. One of his pupils was Hokusai KATSUSHIKA.

Shunsho established realistic art of kabuki actor portraits different from those by artists of the Torii school, who applied the same drawing style to every actor's portrait, and Shunsho's prints were widely accepted by the public. His established style was first seen in "Ehonbutaiogi" (Books of Actor Portraits), which he published jointly with Buncho IPPITSUSAI in 1770. Shunsho's works became popular, as they were vivid and honest with no exaggerations, compared to Buncho's. In his 'Azuma Ogi' series depicting portraits of popular actors, a fan-shaped frame was drawn on each sheet of paper so that people could use it to make a fan (ogi) and enjoy seeing it in their daily life, and this series' half-lengths are believed to have been the pioneering works later developed into Okubie ("large-head" pictures).

The specialty of the Katsukawa school was actor portraits, and the school flourished with many apprentices. At the end of the Tenmei era, he handed over the leadership position of the school to his apprentices, Shunko and Shunei, and he started to focus on brush paintings. His detailed bijinga (portraits of beautiful women) seem to have been highly recognized at that time, and were described as 'Shunsho Ippuku Atai Senkin' (One painting by Shunsho is worth a thousand gold coins). One of his most famous brush paintings is a bijinga 'Setsugekkazu' (Paintings of Snow, the Moon, and flowers) (3-panel work, designated important cultural property, and owned by the MOA Museum of Art).

[Original Japanese]