Utamaro and the Spectacle of Beauty

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ISBN-13: 978-0824831998
ISBN-10: 0824831993
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Editorial Reviews

Review

By offering [a] new approach to the constructions of identity, to the roles of gender, sexuality and celebrity in the Edo period, Davis here makes a significant contribution to the field in showing us the constructed nature of "the spectacle of beauty." ... her publishers have done her proud. Reaktion Books are always beautifully designed and this one, with its full-colour illustrations from all the Utamaro series, its art paper and its elegant binding is one of the best. The Japan Times this beautifully illustrated volume presents an engaging argument which will be of interest to a readership with prior knowledge of Edo art history. The Art Book Davis provides a succinct and credible overview of Utamaro's career, one devoid of the romanticized drama found in most treatments of this artist ... Drawing on the research of Edo culture specialists, Davis treats the reader to a series of interesting and informative essays on such topics as the publishing industry, the Tenmei-era gesaku community, the history fof the Yoshiwara and its protocols, the pseudoscience of physiognomy, and the Kansei reforms. Monumenta Nipponica Handsomely produced and copiously illustrated ... Davis has written a book that skilfully synthesizes a broad range of historical, cultural and artistic data that underscore the degree to which the conventional understanding of the floating world artist is an illusion constructed with the collusion of the viewer. General reader and scholars alike will appreciate her careful analyses of the multi-layered visual and verbal meanings of Utamaro's most familiar print series Print Quarterly Utamaro and the Spectacle of Beauty makes a significant contribution to the field of ukiyo-e studies by aptly showing that past readings of Utamaro as one au fait with the life of women has limited our understanding of the complexity of social factors that led to such a construct. By approaching her reading of the 'Utamaro style' as the concept of a publishing industry geared to catering to the needs of the market, Davis opens up a broader reading of his work that reveals much about cultural and societal attitudes, particularly those related to the perception of women in the male-dominated Edo society. Japanese Studies --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Julie Nelson Davis is assistant professor in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania and has written widely in the field of ukiyo-e studies.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawaii Press (April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824831993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824831998
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.8 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #571,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is one of the most significant and important contributions to the field of scholarship in ukiyo-e. The argument is more sophisticated than the previous reviewer suggests -- rather than "stripping" the artist of "his individuality" Davis argues convincingly that the prints were designed to sell an enhanced reputation for Utamaro -- and that he and his publisher used their connections and period ideas of sophistication to create an aura of celebrity around Utamaro. It's a scholarly book, not a general one, that uses an impressive range of theory, primary documentation, and close analysis to give a new idea of the ukiyo-e artist. If you don't believe me, consider Donald Richie's review in the Japan Times: [...]
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David Stokes on December 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The publisher's description about this book makes it sound pioneering, which it isn't. It's a slow read and there are a number of mistakes in the text. Nelson Davis dwells on points too long so you get the urge to skip ahead and she argues that Utamaro wasn't so much a person as a created persona, like a brand name. She strips the artist of his individuality and implies he was little more than a tool with no real personal voice - not an argument that I think holds water. The usual Utamaro prints are illustrated so there's nothing new there.
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