Kitawaga Utamaro (ca. 1753 – 1806) resided most of his life in Edo, the name then received the capital of the Japanese empire, and that corresponds to the current Tokyo. And logically in that city he developed almost his entire artistic life, extraordinarily prolific. Although within Edo there was a place that he painted countless times
We are talking about theyoshiwara or brothel district, where he painted this work in 1788 and which is currently owned by theBritish Museum of London. In short, as one could imagine, in a large part of the works that he made in that environment, he portrayed sex scenes, on many occasions absolutely explicit and leaving nothing to the imagination.
While on other occasions he focused on more sensual and erotic scenes where the beauty of women takes on special prominence, in fact Utamaro is sometimes identified as the bijin-ga or beautiful woman painter
However, as bijin-ga scenes not only erotic images are known, actually Utamaro paints the woman in various attitudes and environments, from walking to playing or washing up and getting pretty as in her work A beauty looking at herself in the mirror.
However, this other work en titled Lovers would be more linked to a genre ofpaintings named Shunga. Some works that formed a series and that came to be like illustrated books to instruct those less initiated in these matters on matters of sex and eroticism, since next to the image there are allusions to lyrical texts with a comment or pertinent information.
In this case, the image of Lovers is integrated into the series of Pillow Poems or Utakura. Here the poem is included in the fan that the man carries and that says: “I imprison its beak / between the shells of the clam / The snipe does not take flight / this autumn afternoon”. Some verses with a certain ironic tone, and that as in many other Utamaro works are the work of his friendYadoya Meshimori.
As for the scene, we see two lovers kissing in a tea house, a common place for love encounters. A very soft image compared to others of this painter, sometimes extraordinarily provocative. Although, for a Japanese it is surely a much more erotic picture than for Westerners, since in Japanese culture, a bare neck is the most sensual.
Technically, Utamaro's sinuous and sweet drawing is appreciated, and also his ability to capture every last detail in elements such as kimonos or the woman's hair, while in other areas of the work they are austere almost minimalist.