Welcome to our current online exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints. This month we are showing some really terrific and important works by Toyohara Kunichika. Toshidama Gallery has promoted the work of the great Meiji woodblock print artist Toyohara Kunichika in the past. He represents the Meiji era more than any other artist, even his close colleague Yoshitoshi, perhaps because of the intimacy of his art, the sense of personal involvement that he brings to his work. Looking at the great span of his achievement, one is struck by the consistency of his vision, helped in part by his close involvement with the theatre and his close relationships with the great superstar kabuki actors of the day.
We are fortunate to have a splendid triptych, very rare indeed from the very start of his career when he was still a pupil of Kunisada. The 1860 triptych shows Kato Kiyomasa in his campaign against the Chinese in Korea; a great looming presence presumably designed to evoke Japan’s previous glories. Unusual though since Kunichika became above all things the artist of the Meiji kabuki theatre. We see his talent for actors and drama in the stunning, and also very rare Benkei and the White Fox, from A Collection of Thirty Six Poems of 1867. A vertical oban diptych - again a highly unusual format for the prolific Kunichika.
Two superb works dominate the show: a pair of E-sugoroku boards from around 1870. One, a tea-house which comes with the even rarer pocket, beautifully printed, in which the six sheet piece was sold; the other a rare and outstanding supernatural E-sugoroku of twenty-two magicians and villains of kabuki. Elsewhere there are fine examples from all of the genres in which Kunichika was expert… two stunning, deluxe okubi-e (large head) portrait prints; depictions of strong women, a genre Kunichika really made his own; many wonderful, expressive actor prints; and four gorgeous kabuki theatre triptychs.
There is a new essay examining the E-sugoroku of a Teahouse in the Yoshiwara in greater detail at the Eblogger, and our Wordpress site is once more carrying regular posts on alternative aspects of each print updated on a weekly basis.
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