Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum
Source: Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum website http://kyosai-museum.jp/ENG/about.htm
Link to the Japanese website of the museum: http://kyosai-museum.jp/hp/top.html
Note: As of 7/27/2021 the Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum website cannot be reached.
The Museum houses over 3,000 of Kyosai's preparatory drawings and studies.
ABOUT KAWANABE KYOSAI MEMORIAL MUSEUM
Welcome addresses of the director and about the museum:
I am pleased to have your visit to marvelous arts of Kyosai Kawanabe, my great-grandfather and one of the most talented painters in the latter half of the 19th century in the world. The Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum was established in 1977, based on the collection of Kyosai's drawings and paintings along with his daughter Kyosai's works. I believe the revaluation of Kyosai is sure to open up a new field in Japanese art; he has hitherto been unduly depreciated as merely eccentric by narrow-sighted art historians.
The British Museum: "Demon of Painting: The Art of Kawanabe Kyosai" (December 1, 1993 - February 13, 1994)
Source: The Independent website http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/exhibitions--crazy-like-a-badger-the-japanese-demon-painter-kawanabe-kyosai-overindulged-in-sake-for-arts-sake-iain-gale-inspects-the-damage-
Iain Gale inspects the damage by Iain Gale, Friday, 14 January, 1994
At about 11 o'clock in the morning on 30 June 1880, the renowned Japanese painter Kawanabe Kyosai started work on his great curtain for the Shintomi theater. It was to be a version of the classic subject the One Hundred Demons, and as Kyosai wielded his huge painting broom, their faces began to take shape. But there was something different about them. These were not the elegant forms of the ukiyo-e painters. They were wild-eyed, manic creatures who moved across the picture in a frenzy of diabolical abomination. The writer Kanagaki Robun, who happened to be watching, remarked pithily that this was kyoga, 'crazy painting'. And he wasn't wrong. His old friend Kyosai was quite drunk. Since 10 o'clock that morning he had downed three bottles of sake. That wasn't bad going, even for a man whose personal daily intake of 1.8 litres of the powerful rice wine was delivered to his house every morning. Sake was vital to Kyosai's art and under its spell he produced the most extraordinary works of his 35-year career, many of which are currently on view at the British Museum. According to his pupil, the English architect and traveler Josiah Conder, while 'under the influence of Bacchus some of his strangest fancies, freshest conceptions and boldest touches were inspired'.
Kyosai was the wild-man of 19th-century Japanese art and fully deserved his sobriquet Shuchu gaki (demon of painting). He is recorded as having assaulted fellow artists and in 1870 was imprisoned for his scurrilous depictions of western visitors. While his contemporaries of the Meiji period chose to depict the elegant society of ukiyo-e, the 'floating world', Kyosai plumbed the depths of his own drink-addled mind to create a fantastic menagerie of animals, ghosts and demons which rivals the most excessive grotesqueries of Disney's Fantasia or Marvel comics.
Born in 1831, the son of a rice-merchant turned Samurai, Kyosai was always able to appreciate the funnier side of life. From the age of six he was trained as a painter in the ukiyo-e tradition and his earliest works are accomplished examples of that genre. From 1857, however, when he dropped his given name of Shuzaburo in favour of the agnomen Seisei Kyosai, meaning literally 'enlightenment crazy studio', his true calling was revealed. Setting the 'tone' for the kyoga so relished by his friend Robun, one of Kyosai's earliest mature works depicts an old man whose testicles have become entangled in the strings of a young boy's toy. The old man contorts himself in agony, the little boy grins and the level of Kyosai's humour is immediately apparent. By the time of his outrageous Fart Battle of 1867 and its companion piece the self-explanatory Phallic Contest, his wit had ripened to an all-time low. In the former, two teams spray each other with vividly-depicted noxious fumes as the courtesans, for whose entertainment the spectacle has been devised, swoon under the dreadful stench. But there is more to Kyosai than mere bawdiness.
The 'demon paintings' of the 1870s, with which the painter made his name, are inspired fantasies of impish excess whose Tolkein-esque monsters cavort in the fantastic landscapes of the artist's psyche. Often they ape human activity. In Shojo Drinking Sake, little, hairy mythical creatures mirror the artist's favorite pastime, while in the Bosch-like School for Spooks of 1874 the demons are instructed in ways of tormenting their human prey.
In this latter work, which also parodies the Japanese adoption of Western teaching methods, Kyosai hints at the more serious, satirical aspect of his art. However, it is as the painter of such comic tours de force as Cat on a Flying Fish, Frolicking Animals and the Battle of the Badgers and the Rabbits that Kyosai enters western popular consciousness alongside such icon-makers as Disney, Arthur Rackham and E H Shepherd. Although, as far as we know, they did it without the sake.
Kyoto National Museum: "Commemorating the 120th Memorial of Kawanabe Kyosai, Bridge to Modernity: Kyosai's Adventures in Painting" (April 8 - May 11, 2008)
Thursday, April 24, 2008
By MATTHEW LARKING
Special to The Japan Times
One hell of a time: Meji Period 'Demon of Painting' looked West
What wasn't to like about an artist who painted the scroll "Hard Times in Hell," in which the king of Hell and his coterie of demons ascend to paradise in search of more suitable employment?
Laughter from official quarters was decidedly muted when the same acute satirical eye focused on contemporary society and its fondness for all things Western. Whether Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889) really did depict an act of sodomy between foreigners and Japanese at a shogakai (a drinking and painting party) in 1870 is unsubstantiated. The jail time Kyosai spent in the event's aftermath, however, is historical record.
Kyosai's distinct sarcasm, playful virtuosity and extraordinary inventiveness are the themes of Kyoto National Museum's spring exhibition, "Bridge to Modernity: Kyosai's Adventures in Painting," showing till May 11.
The artist lived in a time of extraordinary national and cultural tumult as Japan transformed itself from a feudalist society into a modern nation state. While his contemporaries were searching for methods to modernize Japanese-style painting — later given the name nihonga — or adopting more vanguard expressions in oil paint and imported Western styles, Kyosai was a bastion of tradition.
Precious little about Kyosai, however, is conventional. His apprenticeship as an artist began at the age of 7 in the studio of ukiyo-e (genre painting) artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Kyosai had penchant for sketching from "life" that is illustrated by a macabre, apocryphal tale of the precocious student fishing a severed head out of a river — when he was 8 years old — to use as a subject for sketching practice.
From his 11th year through to his late teens, he was enrolled in the Surugadai branch of the revered Kano School. The surplus of skill he exhibited earned him the nickname the "Demon of Painting" from Maemura Towa, his first Kano teacher, which the artist later amended to "Intoxicated Demon of Painting" to convey his fondness for alcohol.
Kyosai graduated from his Kano training when still a teen, and the exhibition starts with a work from that time, "Bishomonten" (1848). While he revered the Kano school, his allegiance to its principals slackened as he later took on other styles. The most significant deviation was a comic, vulgar style, often satirical and certainly eccentric.
An early precedent for the genre is seen in the "Scrolls of Frolicking Animals," attributed to Toba Sojo (1053-1140), a Buddhist priest. Kyosai updated the style to notable effect, particularly in his "Fart Battle" (1867). Also shown in the the Mori Art Museum's "Smile" exhibition last year, the scroll depicts participants being fed from a caldron of root vegetables to provoke a battle of gas as entertainment for palace courtiers. As the amusements progress, the passing of wind intensifies to the wind-powered launching of hay bales as missiles between the opposing teams. Spectators will note the essential qualities of manga here, which a concurrent event at the Kyoto International Manga Museum also showing till May 11, "Kyosai Manga Festa," makes even more explicit.
In larger paintings, Kyosai depicted ferocious creatures of lore and legend. In "Ghost" (1883) he uses kaki-byoso (painted borders) in place of the conventional silk borders of the picture mounting, making it appear as if the ghost were rising free from the painted surface by appearing to extend beyond the customary painting space. In an even larger, 17-meter work, a curtain made for the Shintomi Theater called "Actors as the One Hundred Demons" (1880), Kyosai combined portraits of actors working at the theater with another of his favored themes, the "Night Procession of the Demons." Fortified with a few bottles of rice wine, Kyosai completed the work in four hours. The result was a sensation.
With all this, it is remarkable to note — as Kano Hiroyuki, the exhibition's supervisory curator, does in his catalog essay — that Kyosai is generally unknown in Japan. Despite a memorial museum dedicated to the artist in Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, the present exhibition is the first large scale retrospective in this country of the his work.
A more persistent interest in Kyosai has been taken up in the West, and the reason for this in part was Kyosai's interactions with foreigners in the early years of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). In particular, Englishman Josaiah Condor was a student and intimate of the artist, and the one who held Kyosai's hand on his deathbed. Early publications in English, such as Condor's "Paintings and Studies by Kawanabe Kyosai" (1911), which concentrated on the author's personal collection, spurred the affection.
Hopefully, the Kyosai's slippage into oblivion will be halted by this exhibition, and the free-spirited artist will be remembered as the "Intoxicated Demon" rather than another, late signature he used: "Nyoku (Like Emptiness)."