Kitagawa Utamaro (1753 - 1806) was a Japanese printmaker and painter, who is considered one of the greatest artists of woodblock prints (ukiyo-e). His name was romanized as Outamaro. He is known especially for his masterfully composed studies of women, known as bijinga. He also produced nature studies, particularly illustrated books of insects.
His work reached Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, where it was very popular, enjoying particular acclaim in France. He influenced the European Impressionists, particularly with his use of partial views and his emphasis on light and shade. The reference to the "Japanese influence" among these artists often refers to the work of Utamaro.
Kitagawa Ichitaro (later Utamaro) was born either in Edo (present-day Tokyo), Kyoto, or Osaka, or in a provincial town, somewhere in Saitama, in 1753. Another long-standing tradition asserts that he was born in Yoshiwara, the courtesan district of Edo, being the son of a tea-house owner, but there is no evidence of this. Following the Japanese custom of the time, he changed his name as he became mature, and also took the name, Ichitaro Yusuke.