Van Gogh •
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Kiyonaga, considered by many to be the greatest master of Ukiyo-e prints, was born in Uraga, Japan. He went to Tokyo to study and become a pupil of
Kyumitsu of the Torii family of painters. When his master died, Kiyonaga, whose real name was Seki Shinsuke, was adopted by the Torii family and eventually inherited their estate. For this reason he was professionally known as Torii Kiyonaga.
His work is less stilted and formal than that found in prints from earlier periods, and he presents female figures and their male admirers and
suitors in outdoor and indoor scenes. These scenes offer distant landscapes, views of houses and roofs in diagonal patterns, and river and boating scenes. Kiyonaga was a great master of color, and he liked to paint diptychs and triptychs, which were printed on separate sheets of paper. Whether he used deep, sensuous tones or more delicate pastels and shades of gray and black, he applied the color freshly and with great taste. His delicate line delineated graceful and appealing women. Kiyonaga's work makes use of genre objects and architectural detail, and depicts what must have been for the people of Tokyo, a series of familiar places and activities. Unlike other Ukiyo-e artists, he also offered the general public a series of prints, depicting court ladies of the tenth and eleventh centuries, dressed in their stiff brocaded kimonos, with elaborate coiffures.