Eisen Biography

Eisen was born in Edo into the Ikeda family, the son of a Kanô-school painter. He studied with Kanô Hakkeisai, from whom he took the name Keisai, and later he had some as yet unconfirmed connection with Kikugawa Eizan, either as a pupil or acquaintance. Scholars also mention the influence of Katsushika Hokusai upon the young Eisen, as well as that of Yanagawa Shigenobu I (1787-1832).  
 
Eisen was one of several writers and artists who edited and expanded upon the Ukiyo-e ruiko ("History of Prints of the Floating World"), the most informative 18th-19th century source of information on the lives of ukiyo-e artists. Eisen's version (circa 1833) was called the Zoku ukiyo-e ruikô ("Supplement to the History of Prints of the Floating World"), known also as the Mumeiô zuihitsu ("Essays by a Nameless Old Man"). He described himself as a hard-drinking, rather dissolute artist. In the 1830s, he ran a brothel called the Wakatakeya in Nezu, though it soon burnt down.  
 
Eisen designed a number of excellent surimono (privately issued prints) and erotic prints, as well as some fine landscapes. Among the latter, his contributions to the series Kisokaidô rokûjûkyû tsugi ("Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidô Road") in the 1830s is most often encountered (Eisen began the series, which was completed by Utagawa Hiroshige). Nevertheless, he is best known for his portrayals of women. By the 1820s Eisen had established himself as an important designer of bijinga ("pictures of beautiful women"). His finest works, particularly his okubi-e ("large-head pictures"), are now considered masterpieces of the Bunsei Period (1818-1830). These portraits of beauties and courtesans are much admired for their pronounced elements of realism and sensuality. Throughout this period he also produced large numbers of full-length portraits, many involving women of the Yoshiwara.  
 
Credit: Viewing Japanese Prints.net