Kiyochika, One Hundred Faces

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847 - 1915) One Hundred Faces (Sanjuni-so Tsuika Hyaku-menso) 1883. Oban.

Kiyochika is a very 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), he illustrates very nicely the growing bonds between east and west at the time. Kiyochika broke with ukiyo-e tradition by studying under a western artist, Charles Wirgman, who was resident in Japan from 1861 until the 1890’s. Wirgman was a satirist and publisher of Japan’s first magazine, The Japan Punch. Kiyochika’s understanding of caricature and satire are visibly the influence of his English mentor.

Kiyochika’s story is not quite so simple, he also studied under the great and equally scurrilous Kawanabe Kyosai. These two influences in his work could be said neatly to summarize the position of Japanese culture of the period: torn between the modernising influence of overseas and yet drawn to the traditions of the recent past. This great print series is a case in point. The Hundred Faces, (four heads per sheet) was an edition of twenty five prints that followed the success of  Thirty Two Faces from the year earlier. They picture ordinary Japanese in ordinary pursuits, some comical, others serious. The idea stems from a deep Japanese fascination with physiognomy, a popular fairground attraction, and a recent vaudeville act in which a performer imitated emotional states and social types by rapidly changing facial expressions and incidental props. In this print, clockwise from top left, Kiyochika pictures; ‘Secret Jealousy of the Wife of a Nobleman’, ‘Piety of a Filial Daughter’, ‘A Mistress’s Apparent Jealousy” and ‘A Geisha Behind the Scenes’.

This is a fascinating print. It delicately balances western and Japanese sensibilities and is a tour-de-force of simple graphic portraiture. The print is in very fine condition, fine colour and fine impression with fresh woodgrain in the background. Full size.

Published by Morimoto Junzaburo.

37cm x 26cm.