ごう (modern usage)
がう (historical usage)
A pseudonym or pen name, also known by its native names hao (in China) and gō (in Japan) and ho (in Korea), is a professional name used by East Asian artists. The word and the concept originated in China, then became popular in other East Asian countries (especially Japan and Korea).
In some cases, artists adopted different pseudonyms at different stages of their career, usually to mark significant changes in their life. Extreme practitioners of this tendency were Tang Yin of the Ming Dynasty, who had more than ten hao and Hokusai of Japan, who in the period 1798 to 1806 alone used no fewer than six.
In early modern Japan, a woodblock print artist's first gō was usually given to them by the head of the school (a group of artists and apprentices, with a senior as master of the school) in which they initially studied; this gō usually included one of the characters of the master's gō. For example, one of Hokusai's earliest pseudonyms was Shunrō; his master Katsukawa Shunshō having granted him the character 'shun' from his own name.
One can often trace the relationship among artists with this, especially in later years, when it seems to have been fairly (although not uniformly) systematic (particularly in the Utagawa school) that the first character of the pupil's gō was the last of the master's gō.
Another figure who studied under Toyoharu was the principal head of the Utagawa school, Toyokuni. Toyokuni had pupils named Kunisada and Kuniyoshi. Kuniyoshi, in turn, had as a student Yoshitoshi, whose pupils included Toshikata.
In some schools, in particular the main Utagawa school, the gō of the most senior member was adopted when the master died and the chief pupil assumed his position. Perhaps as a sign of respect, artists might take the gō of a previous artist. This makes attribution difficult. The censors' seal helps determine a particular print's date. Style also is significant. For example, Kunisada, once he changed his gō to Toyokuni, initiated the practice of signing prints with a signature in the elongated oval toshidama ('New Year's Jewel') seal of the Utagawa school, an unusual cartouche with the zig-zag in the upper right-hand corner. His successors continued this practice.
In modern scholarship on the subject, a Roman numeral identifies an artist in the sequence of artists using a gō. Thus, Kunisada I is also known as Toyokuni III, since he was the third artist to use that gō.
- Frederic, Louis (2002). "Gō." Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
- Lane, Richard (1978). Images of the Floating World. Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky & Konecky.