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Dancers at a Teahouse

Dancers at a Teahouse
Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi (Utagawa Kuniyoshi)
(Japanese, 1797-1861)
Dancers at a Teahouse in Furnichi near Ise
1854 (?)
Woodblock print
Gift of Alvin John Accola in memory of his wife Katharine Mize Accola

Kuniyoshi was born in Edo (modern Tokyo), and was first exposed to artistic design in his family's silk dyeing business. At the age of twelve, he began training to become a painter and printer. He was apprenticed to the great ukiyo-e master Toyokuni (1769-1825), a member of the Utagawa School, when he was fourteen and later became an independent printmaker. His early work focused on popular actors and geishas, but he gradually began to depict historical and legendary figures, which became his primary subjects.

This is an ukiyo-e ("pictures of the floating world") print, a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings in the seventeenth to twentieth centuries that originated in Edo. Ukiyo-e subjects include views of the city and scenes of entertainment and leisure such as Kabuki Theater, teahouses, military arts, geishas and courtesans, and erotic subjects (shunga). Kuniyoshi's print depicts geishas dancing in a teahouse. Ukiyo-e prints such as Kuniyoshi's Dancers were mass-produced and were easily affordable for the lower classes, who could not afford painted versions. Until this point in time, Japanese woodblock prints were almost exclusively created to show religious imagery.

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