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Ueno Tadamasa


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Eighteen Kabuki Makeups

Tadamasa Ueno is known for his dramatic kabuki actor prints, many of which bear a resemblance to the highly stylized figures of ukiyo-e. Born with the name Ueno Kitsumi, he studied from an early age with Torii Kiyotada (Torii VII). The Torii family was a long line of artists closely associated with the kabuki theater and with printmaking since the 17th century. Another member of the famous Torii family, Torii Kotondo, was designing prints around the same time. As was traditional at that time, his artist name Tadamasa was partially derived from his teacher's name, both containing the syllable tada.

In 1940, Tadamasa met with Watanabe Shozaburo to discuss publishing woodblock prints based on his kabuki paintings. This meeting resulted in a collaboration on two series of actor prints. The first series titled Eighteen Kabuki Makeups (Kabuki kumadori juhachi ban) was published during the years 1940 to 1941. One print was released each month. An additional print, New Years Fortune Sanbaso Makeup, was included with this series. All of these prints were signed with the Tadamasa signature pictured above, but with a variety of different seals.

After the first series was completed, Watanabe began publishing a second series of kabuki makeup (Zoku kumadori juhachi ban), but was forced to abandon work due to war shortages. Only seven prints in this series were completed. After World War II, Tadamasa continued to work as a kabuki artist designing billboards for the theater in Tokyo. In 1949, he was accepted as a member of the Torii family and granted the name Torii Tadamasa.

During the early 1950's, Tadamasa worked on several series of kabuki prints with the publishers Shokokusha and Dairesha. With Shokokusha, he designed a 12 print kabuki calendar series as well as a series of 18 kabuki prints (Kabuki juhachi ban). These prints were carved by Okura Hanbei and Nagashima Michio, and printed by Shinmi Saburo. With the publisher Dairesha, Tadamasa designed another series of 18 kabuki prints titled One of Eighteen Kabuki Plays (Kabuki juhachi ban no uchi). This series was carved by Maeda Kentaro and printed by Ono Hikojiro.

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