Welcome to the October selection at the Toshidama Gallery. Once again we are looking at the two great schools of Japanese woodblock printing - Edo and Osaka. The latest post on our Wordpress blog perhaps helps to highlight why Osaka prints are so different from the Edo counterparts. Amongst other things we are showing several prints by the Osaka artist Yoshitaki. Yoshitaki is the last of the Osaka artists of the golden age of kabuki. During his lifetime, the place that kabuki held at the very heart of cultured society diminished. By his death in 1899, kabuki was retiring into the shadows in much the same way that ballet or opera was in the west. The vitality that kabuki possessed, its ability to draw from the lives of the people and amplify them on the stage was gone. The era of the newspaper and the popular press, of western capitalism and mechanical reproduction was upon them.
In the Yoshitaki polyptychs we can see the height of Japanese woodblock technology before its brashness and brilliant fire was dimmed by the insipid watercolour sensibilities of western ‘sophisticated’ art. Look for example at the bravura of Nakamura Sennosuke and Arashi Rikaku II in Katakiuchi Ganryûjima from 1862. The sheer delight in design is breathtaking.
Of course there are great Kunisada theatre prints in the show, the joyous dance piece Sanja Matsuri from 1855 is a wonder, with that magical cloud juggling the opposing states of good and evil! There is a masterpiece of subtlety from Chikanobu from his series of the Chiyoda Palace, and the fragment of a small slice of history in the Kunimasa IV print of the inside of Morit (za) theatre in the midst of a performance of the Battle of Coxinga. These are great pieces of art, great and exuberant celebrations, remnants of a vital culture diminished as we all are by the conflicts of the twentieth century. We are soberly reminded of the conflict to come between frantic mechanisation and a longing for the past in two very rare Yoshitaki prints that commemorate the Saga Rebellion - a vain attempt to stem the tide of progress. There is a link in the catalogue entry to a photograph of one of the combatants in very different clothes.
I hope that you find something to catch your attention in the show. Do please join our mailing list to receive notifications and discounts on all prints.
We have now migrated our payment server to Paypal. This is to provide greater security across the the internet for our clients. If you are not a Paypal customer, you can use the BLACK button on the payment page and purchase via credit card in the normal way. If you experience teething problems using the payment method, please email us and we can reserve prints for you and arrange payment at a later date.