Click here for an extended essay on Yakusha-e of the 19th Century at the Toshidama Gallery Blog
Welcome to the March 2021 selection at the Toshidama Gallery. This month we look at the kabuki woodblock prints of the nineteenth century. Two outstanding vertical diptychs by Kunisada from the 1850’s show the tremendous compositional dexterity of ukiyo-e artists. This unusual and expensive format, enabled artists to show certain dramatic scenes to full effect, in this case the tragic heroine Oshichi falling from the fire tower (albeit in the fascinating ‘style’ of a bunraku puppet) and the magician Tokubei from the play Tenjiku Tokubê Ikoku Banashi riding on top of a gigantic, fire breathing toad. Both these prints are in exceptional states, as are the much later examples by Kunichika from the 100 Roles of Baiko.
In the two examples we have on show the quality of the print and the state of preservation are outstanding, the surfaces are deeply embossed, scattered with mica reminiscent of Sharaku and the ink thickly and densely printed.
We have further works by Kunichika including exceptional examples of his series Twenty-four Paragons of the Meiji Restoration, again in fine condition. Two brilliant peeks backstage by Kunisada and Kunichika are rare examples of dressing room scenes and highly collectible prints of great delicacy. Two masterpieces of the genre are Kuniyoshi’s landscape version of Act V from the Kanadehon Chushingura and a companion print by Toyokuni I of the same play, both in yoko-e format.
We are also showing a large format print by the contemporary American artist Michael Knigin, (1942 - 2011) an outstanding example of modern screen-printing from a series derived from a rare Yoshitaki decaptych. The Knigin is a sought after print from an artist whose work is held in the collections of Brooklyn Museum, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Whitney Museum of American Art and many other institutions. We will be showing later or contemporary work by artists influenced by ukiyo-e in future shows and in fact, in April 2021 we are joining forces with Spring Season Gallery London for a joint Ukiyo-e and contemporary artists exhibition in London.
I hope you enjoy browsing the exhibition. Do sign up to the newsletter for a 10% discount on all prints in this show.