Yamaguchi Ryōshū

Yamaguchi Ryōshū 山口蓼洲 (1886*-1966)

BIOGRAPHY

Yamaguchi Ryōshū was both a Noh and Kyōgen (Noh's comedic counterpart) actor and artist whose painting and print design focused on documenting these traditional theater forms.


Born in Kyoto in 1886 into a "family of the Ōkura school (大蔵流) of kyōgen [performers], [he] was adopted at a young age by the Yamaguchi family of kyōgen actors, who served [as performers] at Hongan-ji temple in Kyoto,"[1] His given name was Furuzawa Keizō 古沢慶三. Ryōshū studied kyōgen under the 10th and 11th generations of Shigeyama Sengorō 茂山千五郎, the Shigeyama family being one of the most prestigious kyōgen families in Japan.[2]


He studied painting and possibly woodblock print design with Kyoto-based nihonga  (Japanese-style) artist Taniguchi Kōkyō 谷口香嶠 (1869-1915), known for his painting and prints of landscapes, historical subjects (including prints of the Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905) and kach-ga (bird and flower pictures).


While few details of his family life are known, his daughter, Kamiuta Misuzu 神歌美鈴, was a kyōgen performer who also acted in the all-women Takarazuka Revue. [3]


While the artist's paintings, in the nihon-ga style, are occasionally seen (see examples below) he is best known for his woodblock prints documenting kyōgen and noh performances, performers, costumes and stage accessories. In 1922-1923 his set of 100 prints titled "Kyōgen hyakuban" 狂言百番 was published by the Kyoto publisher Unsōdō 艸芸堂, followed in 1924 by "Nōgu taikan" 能具大観, a four volume encyclopedia of Noh theater accessories, see image below. Both these works were published in deluxe editions. In 1927-1928, an unknown publisher (sometimes attributed to the Kyoto publisher Hangakai hanmoto 板畫會板元) issued the artist's print compendium of kyōgen titled "Kyōgenga taikan: hyaku shu no uchi" 狂言画大観: 百種之内. The compendium consisted of in ten volumes encompassing 60 woodblock prints - fifty of kyōgen performances and 10 of kyōgen costume patterns, perhaps Ryōshū's best known work. This work was republished several times by Kyoto Shoin 京都書院, first in 1966 and again in 1976.[4] In the 1950s, Yamaguchi would design at least three series of six prints each depicting lone figures in noh plays for Shinagawa Tokoomi owner of the publishing house Kyoto Hanga-in 京都版画院, see image below.


*dates of birth are also seen as 1885 and 1889 (LACMA).


[1] Museum of Anthropology University of British Columbia website http://collection-online.moa.ubc.ca/search/person?person=7046&tab=biography [accessed 1-24-24]

[2] Weblio Dictionary of Art Names 美術人名辞典 https://www.weblio.jp/content/%E5%B1%B1%E5%8F%A3%E8%93%BC%E6%B4%B2?dictCode=BJTJM [accessed 1-27-24]

[3] Tatawiki, a community-fed database of information on the Takarazuka Revue https://www.takawiki.com/tiki-index.php?page=Kamiuta+Misuzu

[4] The information on publications was compiled from online information of the National Diet Library, Worldcat, the catalogs of various libraries and the websites of various print dealers. It may well contain errors as there is differing information from these sources on exact dates of publishing and in the case of "Kyōgenga taikan" differences in publisher attribution for its first edition with some sources stating the publisher is not known

Reference Images

Noh painting, undated

Landscape painting, undated

Kyōgenga taikan 狂言画大観, Volumes 2, 4, 5, 7 , published 1927-1928

image source: Hangado [版画堂] 130 catalog, p. 51.


Nōgu taikan 能具大観  4 volumes (Taisho 13, 12th month), publisher Unsōdō 芸艸堂 


Noh Play, Wood Block Hand Prints, A Set of 6 Pictures, Series 1, 1954

published by Kyogo Hangain 

Image source: Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia  N2.1133 a-h.

A Sampling of Signature and Seals of the Artists

蓼洲作 Ryōshū saku with

蓼洲 Ryōshū seal

蓼洲作 Ryōshū saku with

蓼洲 Ryōshū seal

蓼洲作 Ryōshū saku with

蓼洲 Ryōshū seal

蓼洲模 Ryōshū mo [copying] with Ryōshū seal

蓼洲畫

 Ryōshū ga with

unread  seal

蓼洲畫

 Ryōshū ga with

unread  seal

蓼洲畫

 Ryōshū ga with

蓼洲 Ryōshū seal

Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details