Tuesday, May 05, 2009



I went to see the Kuniyoshi exhibition at The Royal Academy last week and thoroughly recommend it. One of the most influential and prolific creators of Ukiyo-e, Kuniyoshi was not only a highly skilled craftsman but also an innovator, developing the use of tryptych. His work covered so many areas, from his famous Warrior series, to political satire (not easy to get away with at the time), narrative, landscape, portraits of actors and popular stage productions, and even his own line in pretty surrealistic shunga. If you can then go when there's a guide to take you round, we tagged onto the group a few times and the guide was really interesting. I hadn't realised that prints of this kind were very mass-market, costing not much more than a couple of bowls of noodles apparently, and were also copied by rival print-houses - there's even a counterfeit version of one of the prints on show for comparison.

Now I'm pretty clueless when it comes to manga and other comic books, but just looking at Kuniyoshi's warrior prints you can clearly see a forerunner to the modern graphic story-telling of Japan, so much so that some of the compositions are deceptively modern, only the slight fade of the ink and wear of the paper give away their age.

There's a (much better written) in depth review of the exhibition here, and more info here.

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