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Suzuki Harunobu

Japan • 1724−1770

Biography and information

The real name of the artist - Hozumi Jirobey. He was born in Edo (modern Tokyo), studied painting at Kano school. Then under the influence of Shigenag Nishimura and Torii Kiyomitsu became fascinated by woodcuts. The artist's own style was formed rather late, but in the remaining short period (about 6 years) he created more than eight hundred works and about 20 illustrated books.

A master of street scenes and erotic scenes (shung), one of the first to write portraits of kabuki actors in the 1760s.

Suzuki Harunobu (1724-1770) - Japanese artist, one of the best representatives of painting Ukiyo-e, the discoverer of color engraving. Harunobu was the first to introduce multicolor woodcutting to Edo. He is an innovator in the production of Japanese colored woodcuts, printed from many boards.


Harunobu resorted to various methods and created a wide variety of subjects from classical poems to modernized life.


Like many of his contemporaries, Harunobu created many shung - erotic images. Throughout his life and even after it, most artists imitated his style. Many, including famous painters, were proud of their abilities to forge the works of the great master. Much about Harunobu's life is unknown.


Harunobu enriched the engraving using a variety of colors of paints, managed to expand the range of her subjects, and also focused on the emotional world of a person.

Most of the plots of his engravings are connected with the life of the inhabitants of the “merry quarters”, the images of the beauties “bijin-ga” But the images of Harunobu conquered the people of Edo with their femininity, charming beauty.


Since the 1760s, the master has created more than six hundred engravings and “surimono” - greeting cards, which were intended for friends. He was the first to apply the technique of polychrome woodcuts, using up to seven or eight boards for the transfer of color shades. Harunobu paid a lot of attention to the transitions of the moods of his heroines, telling not so much about actions as about feelings - love, sadness, joy, sadness.


He was able to reveal the lyrical feelings of the heroes, not only through the essay of smooth lines, but also through the general conventional coloring, then silver and cold, then warm and soft. A huge role in creating the mood of the plot was also played by the techniques of paint peeling introduced to Harunobu, creating a smooth transition from dark to light in backgrounds. Harunobu used in his compositions various details of the architecture, landscape motifs, which sharply distinguished him from his predecessors, which placed their heroes with an empty background.


With the help of warm colors, flexible and at the same time a smooth line, he created a sensitive and fragile female image, always the same, with a gentle oval face, high eyebrows, tiny lips, miniature hands and feet. Depending on the nature of the images, Harunobu changed the thickness of the lines. Clear and dense lines used in the depiction of the folds of clothing, details of architecture and landscape, and thin in the outlines of the face.


The poetic images of women created by Harunobu were apprehended and developed by many subsequent Japanese artists of the late 18th — early 19th century. Among them is the famous graphic artist Kitagawa Utamaro (1753 - 1806) and Siba Kokan (1747 - 1818), who took the pseudonym Suzuki Harusige.