A private viewing of prints by Kitagawa Utamaro

A private viewing of any piece of art in the Permanent Collection of the Queensland Art Gallery is only an email request away, and is available to anyone. After all, each piece belongs to the State, and is therefore ours to enjoy . . . !  From time to time, I take full advantage of this delightful facility, and on this occasion in the company of good friend Grev Patterson.

In recent years, I have been increasingly drawn to Japanese art, but especially the woodblock prints of Kitagawa Utamaro. He lived through the latter half of the eighteenth century, and died in 1806. Queensland Art Gallery has a number of his prints window mounted but unframed, to examine. A very special experience, to be up close and intimate, with these outstanding works.

Utamaro is one of the most highly regarded designers of prints, paintings and drawings from the Ukiyo-e [Japanese - “pictures of the floating world”] movement. His work reached Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, and influenced the Impressionists, as well as the modern art schools that followed, especially in that ‘golden age’ of French art in the 1890s. A rich decade indeed, and the impact of Japonisme was significant, substantial and lasting throughout Europe.

Many of Utamaro’s pictures feature images of sensuous female figures, and I am fascinated by his use of stylisation, exaggerated line work, exquisite pattern making, and masterful composition.