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Torii Kiyonaga

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Torii Kiyonaga
Edo Torii (Hishikawa) Printmaker
Japanese, (1752–1815) Torii (originally Sekiguchi) Shinsuke. F. N.: Ichibei. Go: Kiyonaga.
Torii Kiyonaga was born the son of a bookseller and publisher in Uraga. He moved to Edo in 1765 and became the pupil of Torii Kiyomitsu. Very early in his artist career Kiyonaga abandoned the traditional actor print of the Torii shcool, and only returned to it briefly before retiring from printmaking altogether (around 1790 he gave up print designing, but continued to paint).

Upon the death of his teacher he was adopted by the Torii family, inheriting the estate and becoming the last major member of the Torii school. From 1781 to 1788 he was perhaps the greatest ukiyo-e master, and he had a tremendous influence on all artists of the last 15 years of the 18th century. He showed great originality as a draftsman and a colorist. He produced a large number of prints, generally of bijin or stylish young men shown in the teahouses, shops, and streets of Edo, but also some of actors together with their accompanying artists, such as musicians and chanters. His prints were well designed, with calm and graceful figures. The carefully rendered details of interiors give a good picture of late 18th century Edo life. His work shows considerable influence from Haronobu, Koryusai, and Shigenaga.

Kiyonaga is also credited with developing the modern triptych, or three sheet print, as being printed onto individual sheets of paper (previous to Kiyonaga prints were printed as one image and then divided into three).


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