Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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  • Kitagawa Utamaro
    died: Edo (present-day Tokyo), Japan ; active: Japan
  • Goldfish, circa 1802, Edo period (1600–1868)
  • Elegant Comparison of Little Treasures
  • Where object was made: Japan
  • color woodcut
  • William Bridges Thayer Memorial
  • Not on display
  • 1928.7897
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Inspired by Japan," Mar-2003, Cori Sherman
Utamaro was known for his paintings and prints of women. He represented popular courtesans, famous beauties, and mothers with babies in a sensuous and stylish manner that appealed equally to Western taste and Edo residents. Many of his masterpieces are half-length or bust portraits of women, which he began to produce in the mid-1790s, managing to capture moments of intimate action in ordinary lives. Even so, Utamaro consistently depicted women as ideals of feminine beauty rather than delineating individual features that would make his subjects recognizable, unique personalities. During periods of extreme censorship when images of courtesans and actors were banned from production, Utamaro turned to mother-and-child subjects to satisfy public demand for pictures of lovely women, as in this print of a mischievious little boy upsetting a fishbowl after exhausting his doting mother.