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TOP > TERRADA MAGAZINE > ART > This is Kyōsai! Celebrated Japanese artist.



This is Kyōsai! Celebrated Japanese artist.

Gifted painter lived through the Meiji Restoration

This is Kyōsai! Celebrated Japanese artist.

Kawanabe Kyōsai lived through the time of social upheaval from the end of Edo period to Meiji period. His first name spelled狂斎(Kyōsai) in the beginning, 狂 representing manic, which later changed to暁斎(Kyōsai).

This is Kyōsai! Celebrated Japanese artist.

Kyōsai studied first under the ukiyo-e painter Utagawa Kuniyoshi then Towa Maemura and Tohaku Norinobu of Kano school, and he finished his apprenticeship at the age of 19. But the Tokugawa shogunate, which was the largest patron for Kano school, came to an end, making it hard for him to live as a painter of Kano school. He named himself 狂斎 and tried to survive by producing works from ukiyo-e paintings to caricatures in large quantity effectively using varying techniques. Unfortunately, he was imprisoned at the beginning of Meiji period for his painting that caricatured a government official. He was released the next year and changed the spelling of his name to暁斎. Since then he focused more on his painting works, and became popular painter creating varying works such as bijin-ga (painting of beautiful women), painting of animals, ghosts, Buddha as well as erotic paintings.

The highlights of the exhibition are the animal paintings in which he vividly depicts animals in various postures. “Animal Circus” shows personified animals in acrobatics; with his keen eye, he successfully creates realistic images of those animals, such as a cat playing shamisen. Some of his paintings show how the essence of humans never changes while cities get modernized after Meiji Restoration with appearance of new things such as steamships and electric poles. By his hand, even the Kuniyoshi-like images of ghosts, demons and monsters with horrific expression seem somewhat humanistic. In contrast to those hectic images, he also made tranquil works depicting Daruma and the Kannon, which shows how diverse in styles his works were.

Mr. Goldman, who is an art dealer based in London, has been collecting Kyōsai’s work for over 35 years and kept them for himself. The exhibition will be a rare occasion to experience the works of the painter who were labeled as a true heretic at the time.

(Text: Naoko Aono)

The Israel Goldman Collection: This is Kyōsai! Celebrated Japanese artist
Dates: February 23rd – April 16th
Venue TheBunkamura Museum of Art 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo
Hours: 10:00-19:00 (-21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, entrance closes 30 minutes before the closing time)
Opens everyday
Admission: 1,400 yen
Inquiry: tel. 03-5777-8600 (Hello Dial)

[Thumbnail, Top]
Kawanabe Kyōsai“Animal Circus” 1871-89, ink and color on paper
Israel Goldman Collection, London 
Photo: Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University

Kawanabe Kyōsai “Night Procession of the Hundred Demons: 1871-89, ink and colour on paper with metallic flakes
Israel Goldman Collection, London 
Photo: Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University


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