The Katsukawa school (勝川派, -ha) was a school of Japanese ukiyo-e art, founded by Miyagawa Shunsui. It specialized in paintings (nikuhitsu-ga) and prints of kabuki actors (yakusha-e), sumo wrestlers, and beautiful women (bijin-ga).
The painter Miyagawa Shunsui changed his surname to Katsukawa. One of his students, Katsukawa Shunshō, took his surname and abandoned the school's tradition of painting well-dressed beauties in favour of yakusha-e portraits of kabuki actors, a domain once dominated by the Torii school. This new focus revived the actor print, which had lost popularity after Suzuki Harunobu's portraits of beauties rose to prominence in the late 1760s.
Shunshō introduced the ōkubi-e "large-headed picture" in the 1760s. He and other members of the Katsukawa school, such as Shunkō, popularized ōkubi yakusha-e prints and the dusting of mica in the backgrounds to produce a luxurious glittering effect.
Shunsui was the son and student of Miyagawa Chōshun, and he in turn taught Katsukawa Shunshō, who is regarded as one of the leading artists of the school. Shunshō personally focused on ōkubi-e headshot actor portraits in his prints, and bijin in his paintings.
Other artists of the school included Shunchō, Shun'ei, and Hokusai (as Katsukawa Shunrō).
The Katsukawa school was created as the result of political oppression of the Kanō school of painting by the Tokugawa shogunate around 1750. Many of the students of Chōshun and Shunsui were arrested and banished, and Chōshun died soon afterwards in 1752. Though the shogunate seemed benevolently inclined towards the Miyagawa school, Shunsui changed the name to Katsu-Miyagawa and then simply to Katsukawa.
The school was particularly popular in the last decades of the 18th century, and was renowned for its realistic actor portraits. Unlike those of the Torii school, which were more stylized, Katsukawa portraits sought to express the individual identities and personalities of those depicted. Around 1800, however, the Utagawa school rose to prominence, replacing the Katsukawa in producing the most popular actor portraits. The school thus came to an end around 1840.