Four Artists of the Floating World
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Welcome to the first show of 2018 at the Toshidama Gallery. It should maybe be Four Artists of the Drowning World… a phrase coined by the gallery as an antidote to the dismissal of nineteenth century Japanese artists by critics. Well, here they are… towering figures from Edo: Kuniyoshi - the artist of history and conflict; Kunisada - the genius of early nineteenth century theatre prints and the inventor of so many theatre genres; Hiroshige - the artist who reimagined the landscape not only for Japan but also for later European Impressionists; and Kunichika - woodblock printing’s swan-song to the audiences of Edo and later to Tokyo, the last great ukiyo-e artist.
They were all pupils of the Utagawa School, all came under the patronage of the great Toyokuni, artist and entrepreneur who reinvented the print for the mass audience of the new century. The show looks at the differing strengths of each artist. In Kunisada we focus on his three-quarter actor portraits, in particular the stunning waterfall scene A Calendar of Hit Comparisons with Picture Plays from 1852, with its splashed gofun waves and superb, technical carving and over-printing; as well as great actor prints such as the series of 36 Selected Flowers. We have a super rare Kuniyoshi taken from his little known series of the 24 Paragons of Fillial Piety…. overlooked perhaps because of its scarceness. We have chosen his captivating picture of the elephants ploughing fields for Taishun under the gaze of the actor Bando Shuka I as our featured print, so rich and strange is its composition.
Hiroshige is represented by an outstanding print of the Kanasugi Bridge and Shibaura, No. 80 from his One Hundred Famous Views of Edo of 1857. A staggeringly original image that remains challenging and modern in its portrayal of a Buddhist procession that omits any of the celebrants! We are also showing two of Hiroshige’s compositions from the Comparison of the Ogura One Hundred Poets of 1847, one of the finest, if not the finest ukiyo-e collaboration of all time. Four Kunichika triptychs and an enigmatic diptych round of the selection... I am especially pleased by the triptych of Ichimura Uzaemon, Ichikawa Kodanji in Ichi-no-Tani Futaba Gunki from 1864, with those rich kimono designs and onnagata actors.
We very much hope that you enjoy the selection, that there is something here that you should like to own and that you enjoy the extensive catalogue notes and blog entries. The Toshidama Gallery blogs are among the most widely read reviews and articles on ukiyo-e anywhere on the web. There is a 10% discount for newsletter subscribers on all prints in this selection, applicable at the checkout. For your voucher code, please subscribe to the newsletter and when prompted to at the checkout, type in the voucher code to have 10% reduced from the total.