Utagawa Kuniyoshi

2021, September 4th-October 24th

  • PARTⅠ Make the Gloomy World Laugh! – Caricatures and the State of Society
    September 4th-26th
  • PARTⅡ Astonish the Edo People! – Warriors and Landscapes
    October 1st-24th

※Works change between two terms

Will be closed on September 6, 13, 21, 27-30, October 4, 11, 18.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) was an ukiyo-e artist who was active in the late Edo period. Kuniyoshi made his debut as an ukiyo-e artist in his late teens. After an unsuccessful period, he made a big breakthrough in his early thirties with the series “One Hundred and Eight Heroes from Tales of the Water Margin.” Since then, he worked energetically on all kinds of genres of ukiyo-e including “musha-e (warrior pictures)” of heroes, “giga (caricatures)”, landscapes, “bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women)”, “yakusha-e (portraits of kabuki actors)”, and pictures for children. He also trained many disciples, and led the world of ukiyo-e.

The year 2021 marks the 160th anniversary of Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s death. In this commemorative year, we will reintroduce and explore Kuniyoshi’s life and his works.

Cats Join to Form the Vocabulary of Bonito(PARTⅠ)/ Private Collection
Cats Juggling Balls(PARTⅠ) / Private Collection

1.Overcoming Adversity

Utagawa Kuniyoshi is known for his resilient work during the unstable ruling under the influence of the Tenpō Reforms. During the reforms, the Tokugawa Shogunate imposed strict controls on the entertainment of the common people. Ukiyo-e artists were prohibited from depicting popular genres such as portraits of famous actors and courtesans. Under such restrictions, one of the genres in which Kuniyoshi found his way was caricature. His joyous and humorous caricatures of anthropomorphized animals became very popular. Although some of his caricatures went out of print being accused as implicitly satirizing the Tokugawa shogunate and he was sometimes summoned to the magistrate for such daring, Kuniyoshi was never discouraged and continued to produce new and inventive works one after another.
With the spread of COVID-19, our activities have been restrained and entertainment is limited. Because we are facing such a challenging time period, Kuniyoshi’s resilience towards adversity and the cheerful tone of his works appeal strongly to us.

Yoshiwara Sparrows’ Temporary Nest(PARTⅠ)
Minamoto no Yorimitsu and His Subordinates Attacked by the Demon Spider(PARTⅠ

2. Astonishing Large-Scale Motifs

Utagawa Kuniyoshi became one of the most popular ukiyo-e artists with the huge success of his “One Hundred and Eight Heroes from Tales of the Water Margin” series. Although Kuniyoshi became the leading artist of the genre “musha-e (warrior pictures)”, he was never satisfied and always tried to create new compositions and themes. Kuniyoshi’s series of warrior paintings with skeletons, fierce sharks, and other gigantic motifs filling up three large screens are his essential works. The people of Edo must have been astonished by the new artistic frontiers he began to explore in his early 50s.

Takiyasha-hime Summoning a Skeleton at the Haunted Old Palace at Sōma(PARTⅡ)
Chinzei Hachirō Tametomo Rescued by Bird Long-nosed Goblins(PARTⅡ)/ Private Collection
One Hundred and Eight Heroes from Tales of the Water Margin: Zhang Shun(PARTⅠ)
Reputed Chivalrous Men Wearing Kimono with the Pattern Designed by Kuniyoshi: Nozarashi Gosuke(PARTⅡ) / Private Collection

3.A large exhibition marking the 160th anniversary of his death

Kuniyoshi was not only skilled at caricatures and warrior pictures. He also created a wide range of fascinating works in various genres, including landscapes incorporating Western artistic expressions and “bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women)” of cool and lively women. This exhibition commemorating the 160th anniversary of Kuniyoshi’s death, presents a total of 160 works of various genres. The exhibition is divided into two sessions: “PART I: “Transform the Transient World into Amusement! – Caricatures and Social Conditions” from September 4 to 26, and “PART II: “Astonish the People of Edo! –Warriors and Landscapes” from October 1 to 24. The works exhibited will be changed entirely between the two sessions.

Night Raid at Horikawa Palace(PARTⅡ)
Famous Places in Edo: Kasumigaseki(PARTⅡ)
Brave Woman Okane in Ōmi Province(PARTⅡ)
Beautiful Women with Famous Products of Various Provinces: Wanting to Show Her Nape Beautiful(PARTⅡ)

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi “Portrait of Utagawa Kuniyoshi” (PARTⅠ)

Highlight

Corns’ Comic: Corn Swinging the Hair(PARTⅠ)/ Private Collection

Here, a corn is dancing with its hair swaying in the air. The corn is painted in imitation of the lion spirit which appears in a dance of the Kabuki play called “Shakkyō-mono”. You may have seen Kabuki actors on TV swinging their long red and white hair wildly. The same kind of dance is performed by a corn in this painting.
A singer and a flute player in the back are also painted as anthropomorphic vegetables, perhaps a pumpkin and a sweet potato. This innovative work of vegetables performing a kabuki play is a perfect example of Kuniyoshi’s sense of humor.


Admission
Adult 1000 yen
University and High school students 700 yen
Junior High School Students and below Free
開館日カレンダー

休館日

2021 09

休館日

1-3, 6, 13, 21, 27-30

2021 / 09

1-3, 6, 13, 21, 27-30

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
2021 10

休館日

4, 11, 18, 25-28

2021 / 10

4, 11, 18, 25-28

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT

文化庁「ARTS for the future!」補助対象事業

Weather in Ukiyo-e

2021, June 26th-August 29th

  • [1st Term] June 26th-July 25th
  • [2nd Term] July 30th-August 29th

※Works change between two terms

Will be closed on June 28, July 5, 12, 19, 26-29, August 2, 10, 16, 23.

Various weather phenomena are depicted in ukiyo-e: clear skies, heavy rain, gentle snowfall, and rainbows after rain. Ukiyo-e artists expressed the ever-changing weather with delicate color changes or with bold deformation.
Japan’s diverse climate, which changes along with the seasons, has had a great influence on people’s lives in both the past and present. During the Edo period, heavy rains caused frequent floods, and unseasonable weather conditions sometimes led to famine.
Even today, with the advancement of science, we cannot control the weather.
Although we prepare for daily changes in the weather by relying on the weather forecast, in recent years, unpredictable abnormal weather such as heavy rain and extreme heat often hit us, and people’s concern for climate change is increasing.
In this exhibition, we focus on the weather depicted in ukiyo-e, and introduce mainly landscape prints created by such artists as Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Hiroshige, and Kobayashi Kiyochika. Through the unique expressions of these ukiyo-e artists, you will be able to experience not only the aesthetic sense of the Japanese people who love the changing sky, but also the activities of the people who were sometimes at the mercy of the wind and rain.

Utagawa Hiroshige “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: Ushimachi, Takanawa” [1st Term]

Kobayashi Kiyochika “One Hundred Views of Musashi Province: Suijin Shrine Grove by the Sumida River” [2nd Term]

Capturing a Variety of Rain

From light rain to thunderstorms, there are a wide variety of ukiyo-e works on the theme of rain. Some of them remind us of the “guerrilla rainstorms” that we have heard so much about in recent years. For ukiyo-e artists, how they express the variety of rain, which is difficult to draw, is a highlight that shows their techniques, and the dramatic changes in everyday life caused by sudden rain might have been attractive as a subject of ukiyo-e.。

Kobayashi Kiyochika “Umewaka Shrine” [1st Term]
Utagawa Kunisada “Scenery of the Evening Shower” [2nd Term]

Snowy Landscapes

In the Edo period (1603-1868), the Sumida River, Mt. Atago and Kan’eiji Temple were known for their beautiful landscapes with snow, and many snow scenes in Edo were drawn in ukiyo-e. However, it seems a little strange to us because snow rarely accumulates in modern Tokyo. In fact, most of the Edo period is considered to have been a Little Ice Age, and colder than it is today. This might be one of the reasons why many ukiyo-e of snowy landscapes were created.

Katsushika Hokusai “Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji: Morning after Snow at Koishikawa” [2nd Term]

Utagawa Hiroshige “Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō Road: 47, Ōi” [1st Term]

Various Shapes of Clouds and Colors of the Sky

Highlighted in this exhibition are expressions of the sky that are unique to ukiyo-e and differ from reality, such as ‘spear-shaped’ haze and blue and red gradation. We introduce works that show unique and original depictions of the sky, such as Katsushika Hokusai’s Thunderstorm Beneath the Summit from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, in which geometric patterns represent lightning, and clear weather and rain are expressed in the same illustration, as well as Utagawa’’s Plum Park in Kameido from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, whose bold color scheme features a red sky.

Katsushika Hokusai “Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji: Shower below the Summit” [1st Term]
Utagawa Hiroshige “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: Plum Park in Kameido” [1st Term]

Abnormal Weather

In the Meiji era, ukiyo-e artists began to depict current disasters and incidents that had been prohibited to be drawn by the Edo Shogunate in the Edo period. Among them, many works that convey the flood damage to urban areas caused by heavy rain were drawn.

Hachisuka Kuniaki “Senju Great Bridge and Azuma-bashi Bridge Collapse in the Great Flood” [1st Term]
Artist Unknown “Mysterious Clouds Appeared in 1890” [2nd Term]

Highlight

Utagawa Hiroshige “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ōhashi Bridge and Atake”後期

This is one of the most famous ukiyo-e masterpieces depicting rain, which captured an evening shower that hit the Shin-Ohashi Bridge over the Sumida River (today, Chuo Ward sits on the west bank, while Koto Ward is on the east).
Among the people on the bridge, we can see a man wearing a woven-rush mat to avoid getting wet, and three men are huddling under one umbrella, which tells us that it was an unexpected rain.
The streaks of rain that cover the screen are made using two types of lines with different angles and shades carved into two woodblocks, then printed. The combination of the depiction of hazy Atake on the opposite bank and the lines of the rain skillfully emphasize the strength and depth of the rain.
Furthermore, the unsettling movement of the clouds is expressed by “atenashi-bokashi”, an irregularly shaped blur, at the top of the painting. A variety of techniques were used to recreate the scene of a violent evening shower and the panic of the people.
This piece, which is also part of Hiroshige’s late masterpiece, the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo series, is considered a gem which fully demonstrates his sensibility and strength in composition, refined as he continued to draw all kinds of weather.


Admission
Adult800 yen
University and High school students600 yen
Junior High School Students and belowFree
Calendar

close

2021 06

休館日

7,14,21-25,28

2021 / 06

7,14,21-25,28

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
2021 07

休館日

5,12,19,26-29

2021 / 07

5,12,19,26-29

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
2021 08

休館日

2,10,16,23,30,31

2021 / 08

2,10,16,23,30,31

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT

Kaburaki Kiyokata and Hirezaki Eiho – Illustrations bringing color to modern literature

2021, May 21st-June 20th  

Will be closed on May 24, 31, June 7, 14.

The Unknown Rivalry –Kaburaki Kiyokata and Hirezaki Eihō

With the rediscovery of “Tsukiji Akashi-chō” in 2019, Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1972) gathered attention. Although he is known as a painter of Japanese art, he was also active in the genre called kuchi-e (illustrations for magazines and novels) from 1903 to 1916. At the time, Hirezaki Eihō (1881-1968) was popular alongside Kiyokata. Kiyotaka and Eihō both succeeded Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, and they were friends who belonged to the same art association. We will introduce the masterpieces of kuchi-e prints of beautiful women by Kiyokata and Eihō from the Meiji Era.

Kaburaki Kiyokata “Illustration for “Yuriko” (Vol. 3) by Kikuchi Yūhō” 1913
ⒸAkio Nemoto

Kaburaki Kiyokata “Illustration for “Koyuki” (Vol. 2) by Kikuchi Yūhō” 1913 ⒸAkio Nemoto

Hirezaki Eihō “Illustration for “Chikai” (Vol. 1) by Yanagawa Shunyō” 1915
Hirezaki Eihō “Illustration for “Chikai” (Vol. 2) by Yanagawa Shunyō” 1917

The Unknown Woodblock Prints with Excellent Techniques

From the late 20s of Meiji Era to the early Taishō Era, kuchi-e prints made with woodblocks were used in the opening pages of the magazines and novels. Kuchi-e which brilliantly illustrated stories, did not simply inherit the mastery of ukiyo-e from the Edo period, but largely surpassed its techniques with delicate carving and painting. However, as they are rarely studied by current ukiyo-e researchers, they had been a forgotten genre. We have chosen 110 pieces from the collection by a kuchi-e collector, Asahi Tomoo to highlight the beauty of kuchi-e prints.

Kaburaki Kiyokata “Illustration for “Nise Murasaki” (Vol. 2) by Izumi Kyōka” 1905
ⒸAkio Nemoto

Hirezaki Eihō “Illustration for “Fukagawa-zome” (Vol. 1) by Izumi Shatei and Izumi Kyōka” 1907

Unknown Illustrators –Keishū, Eisen, Toshikata and Hanko

Kuchi-e prints used in the opening pages of magazines and novels were produced by more than 100 artists since the late 20s of the Meiji period. Popular artists before Kiyokata and Eihō, were Takeuchi Keishū (1861-1943), Tomioka Eisen (1864-1905), Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) and Kajita Hanko (1870-1917). Among them, Mizuno Toshikata, the master of Kaburaki Kiyokata, is an essential artist to study in order to understand the artworks of Kiyokata. We will introduce these four illustrators along with Kiyokata and Eihō.

Takeuchi Keishū “Beautiful Woman Catching Fireflies (Illustration for “Bungei-kurabu” Vol. 3, No. 10)” 1897
Tomioka Eisen “Illustration for “Kareno no Makuzu” by Mizutani Futō” 1897
Kajita Hanko “Fragrance of Chrysanthemum (Illustration for “Bungei-kurabu” Vol. 11, No. 13) 1905

Mizuno Toshikata “Illustration for “Tōsei Gonin Otoko no Uchi Kurahashi Kōzō” (Vol. 3) by Murakami Namiroku”

Highlight of this exhibition

Hirezaki Eihō “Illustration for “Zoku Fūryūsen” by Izumi Kyōka” 1905

This is the kuchi-e printed on the opening page of a novel by Izumi Kyōka. Depicted is the scene where a man rescues a woman who fell into the lake from a boat capsized by a tornado. The running water fills the scene, and the characters are only vaguely seen. Excellent printing technique and an innovative composition are both incorporated in this piece. Although it is not as widely known as the relationship with Kaburaki Kiyokata, Hirezaki Eihō also had a deep connection with Izumi Kyōka. Not only had he worked on numerous illustrations for novels by Kyōka, but also had a close friendship with her.

※This is the same exhibition as that held in March 2020 which was suspended to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.


Admission
Adult1000 yen
University and High school students700 yen
Junior High School Students and belowFree
Calendar

Closed

2021 05

休館日

6,10,17-20,24,31

2021 / 05

6,10,17-20,24,31

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
2021 06

休館日

7,14,21-25,28

2021 / 06

7,14,21-25,28

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT

Losers in Ukiyo-e

2021, April 15th-May 16th  

temporarily closed

Minamoto no Yoshitsune, Akechi Mitsuhide, Saigō Takamori… Losers in History Gather Here

When there are battles or competitions, there will always be winners and losers. And the ones who attract our hearts and leave us impressed in stories such as novels and kabuki plays as well as among historical figures of Japan, could be the losers rather than the winners. These days, there are movements becoming active which try to find new points of view by reviewing history from the losers’ perspectives. Furthermore, it seems that kabuki plays and novels depicting the fleeting nature and sorrow of warriors such as Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Akechi Mitsuhide, who lost battles and fell to ruin, attracted deep sympathy from the people in Edo. This exhibition will focus on the various losers drawn in ukiyo-e who attracted popularity in the Edo period.

Utagawa Kunitsuna Ⅱ(Kuniteru Ⅱ) “Takeda Katsuyori Dying in the Battle of Tenmokuzan”

Losers Who Attract the Hearts of the Japanese

There is a phrase known as “hougan biiki”.
Minamotono Yoshitsune kept winning the battles between the Taira and Minamoto clans, but was expelled for being a nuisance and subverted by his brother Yoritomo. “Hougan biiki” means “sympathy for a tragic hero” like him, and describes the feeling of taking their side.
For a long time, Japanese people have been telling history and stories with empathy for those who lose and die in such battles. There are so many similar cases, such as of the Taira clan, Yoshitsune, Kusunoki Masashige, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Saigō Takamori. Moreover, as it is obvious from the case of Yoshitsune, we can say that only a fine line exists between winners and losers. Why don’t we think over what it means to win and to lose while viewing various characters drawn in ukiyo-e?

Utagawa Yoshitora / Utagawa Shigekiyo “Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō Road with Calligraphy: Ise, Cherry Blossoms in Ishiyakushi”

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi “Battle of Sekigahara”

Utagawa Hiroshige “Night Attack of the 47 Loyal Retainers”

Face-Off! What Happens in a One-on-One Battle?

People sometimes confront each other one-on-one to prove their power and justice. In history, novels, and kabuki plays, such battles and competitions are often the highlight of the story. This section introduces famous scenes of confrontations depicted in ukiyo-e, such as the duel between Benkei and Ushiwakamaru and the contest of strength between Soga Gorō and Asahina.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi “Gojō Bridge in the Chronicles of Yoshitsune”
Ōmori Yoshikiyo “Gorō Tokimune and Asahina from the Tale of Soga Brothers”

Villains in Kabuki Plays—People Who Were Destined to Los

Stories in which the hero defeats powerful enemies are called “kanzen chōaku”, and are still popular today. In kabuki and novels of the Edo period, kanzen chōaku was one of the most popular plots. People in Edo cheered when villains with overwhelming power appeared and the hero defeated them. The villains can be said to be destined to lose.

Utagawa Toyokuni “Kabuki Play “Sugawaradenju Tenarai Kagami” Kuruma-biki”

Highlight of this exhibition

Utagawa Toyonobu “Scene from the Story about Toyotomi Hideyoshi “Shinsen Taikō-ki”: Oda Nobunaga Beating Akechi Mitsuhide with the Iron-ribbed Fan”

In Japanese history, Akechi Mitsuhide has a strong image as a rebel or a loser who lost his ruling power in only a few days. However, a recent TV drama which depicted Mitsuhide’s life introduced a new interpretation in which the reason why he betrayed his lord was for justice, because the lord had become out of control and more of a tyrant year by year. In fact, images of Mitsuhide as a tragic hero are not new. For people in the Edo period, Mitsuhide was a villain as a murderer, but at the same time, in kabuki plays and novels, he was depicted as a weak person who was insulted by the tyrant lord and had a grudge. This picture depicts a famous scene from the novel Taikōki, in which his lord Nobunaga hits Mitsuhide with an iron fan because Mitsuhide had admonished Nobunaga’s attack on the Erin-ji Temple with fire. Various episodes, not only about Mitsuhide but also his vassals, who are not known these days, are introduced in this book, and also many ukiyo-e depicting them were published. We can understand his popularity in the Edo period.


Admission
Adult 1000 yen
University and High school students 700 yen
Junior High School Students and below Free
Calendar

close

2021 04

休館日

1-14, 19,25-30

2021 / 04

1-14, 19,25-30

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
2021 05

休館日

1-14,17-20,24,31

2021 / 05

1-14,17-20,24,31

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT