Utamaro (Kitagawa Utamaro)kētäˈgäwä ōtäˈmäro, 1753–1806, Japanese color-print artist, best known for his portrayals of women. Although he enjoyed enormous success during his lifetime, not much is known about his life except that he was imprisoned for a short time when his prints were supposed to have offended the Tokugawa government. His were among the first Japanese prints to become familiar in the West, as they were especially popular with the Dutch exporters of Nagasaki. Following Kiyonaga, Utamaro depicted women in an idealized manner, accenting sensuous beauty. His book of Insects (1788) reveals a keen observation of nature. His draftsmanship and use of color (especially reds and black) show a striking originality that made him the first of the greater masters of the ukiyo-e school. The New York Public Library has a collection of 133 of his prints.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.