Kunichika & Kyosai, Famous Views for the 12 Months - 5th Month

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) and Kawanbe Kyosai (1831 - 1889) Famous Views for the Twelve Months: 5th Month, 1882. Oban.

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This is an important collaboration between two of the great woodblock artists of late nineteenth century Japan. Quite a rare piece, it showcases two great contemporaries, Kunichika and Kyosai, working together on a series commemorating the twelve months with theatre subjects. Kyosai was a gifted artist and exact contemporary of Kunichika. He worked initially in the studio of Kuniyoshi whilst Kunichika was a pupil in Kunisada’s rival atelier. Kyosai went on to become a gifted painter of the Kano School, but as Japanese painting traditions collapsed in the 1860’s, Kyosai was forced to work once again in woodblocks. Both artists were widely celebrated by critics and in contemporary newspaper articles and were well acquainted with each other, enjoying drunken brawls and frequent fallings out.

This series of twelve prints has actor portraits by Kunichika in the foreground set against landscapes and scenes painted in fan shaped cartouches by Kyosai in the fluid, Kano School style. This flamboyant print depicts Ichikawa Kuzo III as Imagawa Yoshimoto. Yoshimoto was a successful military campaigner and clan leader during the period of the warring states. In the summer of 1560, Yoshimoto headed out to the capital. Despite having a strong force of 25,000, Yoshimoto deliberately announced that he had 40,000 troops. While this statement put fear in many factions, Oda Nobunaga of Owari Province saw through it. A surprise attack by the Oda army of 3,000 following a downpour left Yoshimoto's army in complete disorder. Two Oda samurai ambushed the Imagawa army and killed Yoshimoto, in the village of Dengakuhazama. Kuniyoshi made a stunning portrait of Yoshimoto clutching a spear, imprisoned behind bars of rain as if in a cage - a metaphor for his imminent defeat.

Kunichika has designed the figure of Yoshitomo, fighting for his life at the moment of defeat. Kyosai drew the fan in the background in a wholly different style - that of the kano school… brushy and loosely defined; nevertheless we see the army of Nobunaga putting Yoshitomo’s troops to rout.

A tremendous and bold collaboration, the print has Japanese album backing. The colour, impression and condition are fine.

Published by Takegawa Sekichi.

24.5 x 36 cm.