Isoda Koryusai

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  • Born: c. 1735
  • Japanese: 磯田湖竜斎 (Isoda Koryuusai)

Isoda Koryûsai was an ukiyo-e artist of the 1760s-80s, who drew considerable influence from Suzuki Harunobu. Though he produced many skilled and masterful non-erotic prints, he is also considered one of the chief producers of shunga images.

Making his studio in the Ryôgoku area of Edo, Koryûsai is said to have perhaps been from the Tsuchiya ronin family of Edo Ogawamachi. Koryûsai was originally trained in the Kanô school of painting, and might have studied under Nishimura Shigenaga as well. He produced mainly prints in the 1760s before turning primarily to painting in the 1780s. His prints reflect a stronger affection for scenes of everyday life, and for a degree of realism in the representation, two trends which arose just after Harunobu's death in 1770.

Koryûsai led the pack in repopularizing a number of media and formats, including an opaque orange made from iron oxide that had fallen out of use, and pioneered the use of themes from bird and flower painting in prints. He is particularly known, however, for his extensive use of the hashira-e ("pillar print") form, a tall, narrow format which created a rather dramatic effect in its extreme horizontal cropping of the subject.

Later prints by Koryûsai include a number of ôban sized images of courtesans and kabuki actors. Ukiyo-e expert Richard Lane describes these as lacking the intimacy of Harunobu's works, and as being sharply realistic, representing the start of an influential trend in the development of ukiyo-e.


  • Lane, Richard. Images from the Floating World. New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1978. pp111-114.
  • Morse, Anne Nishmura et al. The Allure of Edo: Ukiyo-e Painting from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (江戸の誘惑: ボストン美術館所蔵 肉筆浮世絵展, Edo no yûwaku: Bosuton bijutsukan shozô nikuhitsu ukiyoe ten). Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun-sha, 2006. p182.