Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden: Ju-unryu Kosonsho Conjuring a Storm, 1827-1830. Oban.
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This imposing print of the magician and taoist outlaw Ju-unryu Kosonsho is from the series The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden. Published in 1827, this great series established Kuniyoshi as the foremost artist of his generation. It was the first major series of full colour, single sheet warrior prints, Kuniyoshi nevertheless had precedents in similar experiments by Kunisada, Toyokuni I and Shuntei. Kuniyoshi found his audience though and his future success was assured.
The stories of the Water Margin (Suikoden) were originally medieval Chinese folk tales, exported to Japan and rewritten for the Edo audience. They tell a fantastical tale of outlaw bandits with supernatural strength who are eventually cajoled into defending the Chinese Empire and as a result, pardoned by the Emperor. Kuniyoshi’s series is certainly his finest and most innovative work. Ju-unryu goes by the name Gongsun Sheng in the original Chinese tales. Kuniyoshi has been quite literal in his depiction - he is described as having: eyebrows resembling the Chinese character for "eight", almond-like eyes and a noble appearance. He is a Taoist priest and possesses the abilities to perform magic, summon the wind and rain, ride the mist and drive the clouds. Such is his sheer magical powers and mystique that earns him the nickname "Dragon in the Clouds". His weapon is an ancient sword made of copper. Kuniyoshi shows his noble bearing, also the dragon coiled at his feet and the copper sword; he conjures a storm, the black clouds at the top and waves at the base, animating the scene. The dragon is modelled on the Habu snake, one of the most dangerous in Japan.
An exceptional print, rare and from Kuniyoshi’s finest and most important series. Colour and impression are fine, condition is excellent. The print is trimmed particularly on the left hand side.
Published by Kaga-ya Kichiyemon, S2.26 in Robinson, Kuniyoshi: The Warrior Prints, Phaidon Press 1982.
36 x 24.5 cm.