KUNISADA (1786-1865) aka Toyokuni III was the most active and popular ukiyo-e artist of the nineteenth century. In his time his reputation surpassed those of his contemporaries Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi. He was born in the Honjo district of Edo in 1786. His family owned a small hereditary ferry-boat service which provided some sort of financial security after his father, an amateur poet, died when he was still a baby. During his childhood Kunisada showed considerable promise in painting and drawing and due to strong familial ties with literary and theatrical circles, spent his time copying portraits of actors. Around 1800 at the age of 14, he was admitted to study under Toyokuni who headed the Utagawa school. Kunisada’s work embodied the characteristics of the Utagawa school focusing on traditions of kabuki, bijin, shunga and history. His known first print dates to 1807 and in 1808 he began working as an illustrator of ehon. Kunisada’s career took off from the beginning and he enjoyed a high level of success all throughout his life. He became most well known for his theatrical prints, but also excelled in portraying women. Many of his works became overnight successes and he was considered the “star attraction’ of the Utagawa School. He signed his works Kunisada, sometimes with the studio names of Gototei and Kochoro affixed, until in 1844 when he adopted the name of his teacher and began using the signature of Toyokuni. In 1865, Kunisada passed away in the same neighborhood that he was born. He was seventy years old.