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Biography: Hokusui YOSHITOYO (北粋芳豊)

Hokusui Yoshitoyo xxxxxxxx
Hokusui Yoshitoyo print from 3/1856
Jitsukawa Ensaburô I as Abe Genzaburô
Rei (Decorum or Propriety: 禮)
Mukashi abumi bunbu no isaoshi (昔鎧文武功)

Oju Yoshitoyo sha
ôju Yoshitoyo sha (応需芳豊写)
"Sketched by Yoshitoyo, by request"


Hokusui YpshitoyoHokusui Yoshitoyo (北粋芳豊, died 1862, active c. 1849(51?)–1860), was a student of the Edo master Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川國芳). He produced roughly 200 or so yakusha-e (actor prints: 役者絵) and fûkeiga (landscapes: 風景画), overwhelmingly in the small chûban (中判 250 x 180 mm) format. There are also some tiny mameban (豆判 130 x 100 mm or smaller) actor prints, as well as musha-e (warrior prints: 武者絵), grouped together on larger hosoban (細判 330 x 150 mm) or ôtanzakuban (大短册判 390 x 175 mm) sheets.

Yoshitoyo rarely produced works for the standard large-size ôban (大判 370 x 280 mm), although there is one known exceedingly rare actor portrait and at least one nishiki-e banzuke (full-color theater playbills: 錦絵番付) of that size. A few rare fûkeiga in ôban format have also been found. Finally, late in his brief career, Yoshitoyo provided illustrations for newspapers, referred to as nishiki-e shinbun ("color-picture news": 錦絵新聞).

Yoshitoyo's earliest print might be the portrayal of the Ghost of Oiwa from the play Mukashi Oiwa kaidan (The Ghost of Oiwa from long ago: 昔尾岩怪談) at the Kado Theater in 4/1849. The staging is listed in Kabuki nenpyô (Chronology of Kabuki, vol. 6, p. 521), but there are no actors identified in that source. If the performance and date do indeed hold up for that print by Yoshitoyo, it would be slightly earlier than the previously reported active period (1851-1858) for which the first known Yoshitoyo print was a reduced-size copy of a Hirosada chûban portraying Nakamura Utaemon IV and Mimasu Daigorô IV in Sugawara denju tenarai kagami (9/1851). 

As for the estimated final year of activity, that, too, seems to require adjustment. Previously reported as 1858, Yoshitoyo's last year seems more likely to have been 1860, if we can accept the dating of the series Miyako hyakkei (100 Views of the Capital [Kyoto]: 都百景) published near the end of the artist's life around 1860.

An example of a Yoshitoyo design included in a five-part set of actors is shown on the left. The play commemorated in the pentaptych is Mukashi abumi bunbu no isaoshi (Ancient armor and meritorious military exploits: 昔鎧文武功) at the Naka Theater, Osaka in 3/1856. The five sheets (see YTY01) constitute the complete series Gojô meigi no uchi (Five Confucian virtues by their righteous names: 五常名義内). The edition was printed as jôzuri-e ("top quality" or deluxe prints: 上摺絵), with fine carving and metallic pigments.

The largest number of fûkeiga or landscape designs by Yoshitoyo can be found in the collaborative series Miyako hyakkei (100 Views of the Capital [Kyoto]: 都百景) published by Ishiwa (石和) near the end of the artist's life around 1860. Ishiwa's cover sheet has an expanded title, Miyako meisho hyakkei (100 Famous Views of the Capital: 都名所百景). The designs feature famous sites in the imperial capital of Kyoto. Besides Yoshitoyo (signing as Hokusui, 北水), the other artists were (primarily) Umegawa Toyko (梅川東居 act. c. late 1850s–early 1860s) and (at least one sheet) Raku Shunsui (洛春翠 act. c. late 1850s–early 1860s).

Note: The Osaka artist Hokusui Yoshitoyo was not the same as the roughly contemporary Edo artist with the same art name (Yoshitoyo 芳豊 1830-1866) who used different pseudonyms (Fukuyama 福山 and Ichiryûsai 一龍齋) and happened to also be pupil of Kuniyoshi.

Hokusui Yoshitoyo's Names

Utagawa (歌川)
Uehara (上原);

Personal Name (jinmei):
Hyōzō (兵三) found 3X on an artist seal

Art Name (geimei):
Yoshitoyo (芳豊); also for artist seal (above 2nd right)
Hokusui (北粋, 北翠, 北醉, 北粹, or 北水) For 北粋, see above right

Art Pseudonyms ():
Hokusui (北粋, 北翠, 北醉, 北粹, or 北水) also used as a geimei
Gansuitei (含醉亭)

Pupils of Hokusui Yoshitoyo

So far, no pupils have been identified.

The text provided here is based in large part on John Fiorillo's web page: