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Biography: Tessai NOBUKATSU (哲齋信勝)

Tessai Nobukatsu 1830 Kan Shojo
Tessai Nobukatsu print from 6/1837
Signature: ôju Tessai sha (応需哲齋寫)
"Sketched by Tessai, by request"
Tsuizen-e (memorial print: 追善絵)
for Arashi Rikan II (二代目 嵐璃寛)
Woodcut, deluxe ôban format




Tessai Nobukatsu signatureTessai Nobukatsu signatureTessai Nobukatsu (哲齋信勝 act. c. 1829 to 1841) was a pupil of Ryûsai Shigeharu (鉚齋重春) circa 8/1829 and Sadamasu (Kunimasu) I (貞升) circa 1/1833. He signed his earliest known print as Ryûkyôtei Shigenao (柳狂亭重直) in 7/1829, but appears to have produced very few print designs in the years that followed. Currently, slightly more than ten prints are known, although unquestionably more were published, some of which may be identified as research continues. Presumably, Nobukatsu was involved in other endeavors, which would have been consistent with the skilled-amateur status of nearly all print artists working in Osaka. He seems to have ended his printmaking career just as the draconian Tenpô kaikaku (Tenpô Reforms: 天保改革) were issued; in 7/1842, these edicts banned, among other things, prints of kabuki actors and publication of stories associated with the theater..

As with so many other print artists in Osaka, Nobukatsu was a participant in poetry circles. There is a poem (one of seven) on a double-ôban surimono by Shunkôsai Hokushû from 3/1824 that has a signature reading "Tessai" (哲齋) — presumably, this is the artist Nobukatsu. The Hokushû print (see Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, no. 11.26637-8) portrays Nakamura Matsue III (中村松江) as Otaka (おたか), Ichikawa Ebijûrô I (市川鰕十) as Mokuemon (杢右衛), and Ichikawa Danzô V (市川國蔵) as Yashichi (弥). If Nobukatsu did indeed participate as a poet, his profile among the versifiers in Osaka's amateur print-and-poetry world would help to explain why he, an artist who produced very few prints, was granted a commission to design the deluxe print shown on the left, a special-issue tsuizen-e (memorial print: 追善絵) commemorating the death of the actor Arashi Rikan II in 6/1837. A group of sixteen kabuki fans and amateur poets collaborated by contributing poems eulogizing Rikan. For more about this print, see the link at the bottom of this page.

The reasons for Nobukatsu's very small production of print designs over more than a decade of activity remain unknown. Had he been prolific, one wonders whether he might have sustained as high a level of artistry as he did with the few but decidedly fine woodcuts that have come down to us. If he had done so, Nobukatsu would be considered one of the leading print designers during the second quarter of the nineteenth century in Osaka.

Tessai Nobukatsu's Names

Yanagawa (柳川) in 1831 (possibly suggesting a link with Yanagawa Shigenobu (柳川重信)?
Utagawa (歌川) in 1833

Art names (geimei):
Tessai (哲齋) poem on surimono by Hokushû (3/1824); geimei on tsuizen-e for Arashi Rikan II (6/1837)
Shigenao (重直) in 1829 (with the Ryûkyôtei, 柳狂亭)
Nobukatsu (信勝) at least by 9/1829

Art names ():
Ryûkyôtei (重直) in 1829 (with the geimei Shigenao, 重直)
Tessai (哲齋) at least by 3/1830; also geimei in 6/1837 on tsuizen-e for Arashi Rikan II
Gokyôtei (五狂亭) in 1829

Pupils of Tessai Nobukatsu

So far, no pupils have been identified.

The information on this page has been adapted from John Fiorillo's web page about Tessai Nobukatsu: