Utagawa School Bijin Fan Print with Sketches of Women

Utagawa School, 19th century

Preliminary Drawing of Bijin Fan Print with Sketches of Women

sumi ink on soft paper half-length drawing of a fan print design depiciting a beauty near a railing holding an uchiwa fan decorated with a morning glory, with water color highlighting details on her face, clothing, fan and balustrade to her left, surrounded by sketched vingnettes of women including a small re-working of the primary design upside down near the top edge of the sheet, ca. mid-19th century

13 1/4 by 10 5/8 in., 33.5 by 27 cm

Fan prints, by their very nature, are quite scarce, sometimes only one or two impressions may be known of the limited examples that are extant. With a small pool of surviving works available, and even fewer that are actually published in reference books or online, attributing this drawing to a specific artist is an elusive endeavor. That said, among the Utagawa school artists, Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) produced a large number of fan print with more than 360 designs recorded thus far, most of which depict close views of beautiful women that resonate with this sketch. Her open facial expression, the arch of the eyebrows, the angle of the eyes and mouth, and the shape of the nose (slightly elongated at the tip), compare with his depictions of bijin from the late 1840s to the early 1850s.

In addition, the confident brushwork evident in the outline sketches on the upper half of the paper make a very interesting comparison with an over fifteen foot handscroll illustrated in the Kuniyoshi 150th Memorial Retrospective with the descriptive title Rough Sketch of Various Characters of Kabuki that illustrates hundreds of small black outline faceless figures filling the paper from edge to edge. As such, it seems possible that with further research and some serendipity an attribution to the studio of Kuniyoshi may be possible.

Timothy Clark, Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection, 2009, p. 172-175
Kuniyoshi: 150th Memorial Retrospective: Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Ota Memorial Museum of Art, 2011, pp.108-111
(inv. no. C-1801)


Utagawa School

Cropped figures


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