And the Spectacle of Beauty

Julie Nelson Davis


Julie Nelson Davis

Distributed for Reaktion Books

296 pages | 66 color plates, 48 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 | © 2007
Cloth $60.00 ISBN: 9781861893598 Published March 2015 For sale in North and South America only
Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806) was one of the most influential artists working in the genre of ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” in late eighteenth-century Japan. In particular, he was widely appreciated for his prints of beautiful women. In this book, Julie Nelson Davis draws on a wide range of sources and her own sophisticated analysis of his works to reinterpret Utamaro within the context of his times.
Reconstructing the place of the ukiyo-e artist within the commercial print market of eighteenth-century Japan, Davis situates Utamaro’s oeuvre within the artistic culture that surrounded him, demonstrating how his images participated in a larger spectacle of beauty that characterized the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo). Walking the streets of Edo with Utamaro, she follows his life and output up until his arrest for insulting military ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi (for depicting his wife and concubines), which would destroy his career just as it reached its pinnacle. Examining how Utamaro and other artists of his time engaged with the construction of gender, identity, sexuality, and celebrity, Davis makes a larger contribution to art history as a whole. 

Introduction – Utamaro, Ukiyo-e and the City of Prints

1. Constructing the Artist Known as Utamaro

2. ‘Pictures of Beauties’ and Other Social Physiognomies

3. Behind the Brocade and Other Yoshiwara Illusions

4. Utamaro and the Feminine Spectacle

5. Making History into the Pageant of the Floating World


Works Cited


List of Illustrations


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