unsigned, attributed to Katsukawa Shunsen (Shunko II), with censor's seal kiwame (approved), published by Izumiya Ichibei (Kansendo) ca. 1810s
oban yoko-e 10 by 14 in., 25.5 by 35.7 cm
Katsukawa Shunsen originally studied painting with Tsutsumi Torin, III, a Rinpa school artist. Around 1806 or 1807 he became a student of Katsukawa Shun'ei (1762-1819), and changed his name from Kojimachi Shunsen to Katsukawa Shunsen. In 1820, the year following the passing of his teacher Shun'ei, he succeeded Katsukawa Shunko I (who had died eight years previously in 1812), and took the name Shunko II. Confusing matters there was another earlier artist had also taken the name Shunko, but the two artists used a different kanji for the second character, 'ko' in their names. As such, although this artist may be the 'official' Shunko II, he actually is the third to use that name.
Marks identifies two distinct untitled landscape series by Katsukawa Shunsen with a characteristic red cloud band published by Izumiya Ichibei (Kansendo), and also two series published by Sanoya Kihei (Kikakudo). Although it is tempting to link the series as joint publications, the artist seems to have copied his own work from one series to another: in this case there is a strikingly similar awabi diver composition published by Sanoya Kihei. The Kikakudo design is signed by Shunsen and depicts three awabi divers, one of who is nursing a child. Perhaps he revisited the theme for Kansendo, adding the two beautifully dressed women with a young boy enjoying a picnic with sake and their tobacco pipes in comically close proximity to two voluptuous awabi divers on the same rock outcropping. He may have been inspired by a composition by one of his peers, Utagawa Kunitora (fl. ca. early 19th c.), published by Yamatoya Heikichi (Eikyudo), who also depicts a pair of young women having a picnic with a child at the shore with awabi divers. Each of these designs are so similar there is surely a relationship of influence, however, none of the designs are dated and the stylistically it is nearly impossible to say with certainty which one inspired the other.
Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art
Publisher: Izumiya Ichibei (Kansendo)
Andreas Marks, Publishers of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Compendium, 2011, p. 174
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession nos. 11.18012 (this design with Izumiya Ichibei publisher seal), 11.18011 (altered composition signed and with Sanoya Kihei publisher seal), and 11.25854 (similar composition by Kunitora)