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Keisai Eisen, 1790-1848
Grass On the Way Of Love: Geisha On the Sumida River
(Koi no Michikusa: Sumidagawa Yoseru no Geisha)
the fourth design from an album of twelve prints; a couple on a pleasure boat, an agile geisha uses her umbrella to create a modicum of privacy, unsigned, ca. 1825-28
oban yoko-e 10 3/8 by 15 1/8 in., 26.4 by 38.5 cm
The scene is identified at upper right, Sumidagawa yoseru no geisha (A geisha on assignment on the Sumida River). Although this print is unsigned, other designs from the series are discretely signed with Eisen's trademark 'Sen'.
Although Eisen was born into a samurai family which would have accorded him some social status, he experienced a painful fall from grace triggered by the deaths of first his father and then his stepmother only months apart in 1810. At the age of 20, Eisen was forced to find ways to support himself as well as three younger half-sisters. He began producing shunga the following year, relatively early in his artistic career. Unlike his contemporaries in the studio of Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825) who was chastened by a crackdown in 1804 and apparently forbade his students to produce shunga for a considerable period, Eisen designed shunga albums and novels with his own text, narratives, and even his own calligraphy. Although the lavish shunga publications were mostly produced under pseudonyms, his distinctive style was easily identifiable and invited scrutiny which eventually forced him to give up his samurai rank.
Hayashi and Lane (eds.), The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga, no. 14, Eisen, 1997, p. 40
Uhlenbeck and Winkel, Japanese Erotic Fantasies, 2005, p. 172, no. 62
Calza, Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories, 2010, pp. 424-425