Kiyochika, History of Japan (Nihon Gaishi no Uchi) - Akugenta Yoshihira

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847 - 1915) History of Japan (Nihon gaishi no uchi): Akugenta Yoshihira, Oban Triptych. 1882.

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This striking print is by Kobayashi Kiyochika, a highly regarded artist of the Meiji. Described as, "...the last important ukiyo-e master and the first noteworthy print artist of modern Japan,” by Richard Lane in Images from the Floating World, The Japanese Print, Oxford University Press 1978; he illustrates very nicely the growing bonds between east and west at the time.

The scene is from the Heiji Rebellion of 1159 - 1160. It shows Akugenta Yoshihira fighting in the snow, probably in the act of slaying his uncle. Minamoto no Yoshihira (1140-60) was only fifteen when he earned the nickname 'Kamakura Agenta', Wicked Genta of Kamakura, by murdering his uncle Yoshikata and other relatives.

In 1159, at the age of nineteen, Yoshihira left Kamakura to join his father in Kyoto, where they fought together against Taira no Shigemori. They were defeated and fled; his father was assassinated by a Taira agent soon after. Yoshihira went back to Kyoto to seek revenge, disguised as a peasant. Unfortunately he was executed at the Nunobiki Falls but nevertheless returned in the form of a Thunder God, wreaking revenge on his enemies. The print is from a short series of triptychs that chronicle such events in Japanese folk history. This print is almost hyperreal in the way that the artist has focused on the avalanche of crashing snow. The horses are pure western art, the perspective also is borrowed from European traditions but that sky… inspired surely by Yoshitoshi, is pure Japan.

There is some trimming overall, impression and colour are fine, the print has some wear and glue residue on the reverse.

70.5 x 36 cm.