Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Yakusha-e: Kabuki Prints, a Continuing Tradition

(from 29th Nov 2011 until 4th Mar 2012)

Discover the brightly coloured woodblock prints of actors from Japanese popular theatre.

Detail of The actor Nakamura Shikan IV as the fisherman Fukashichi, Tōkyō, 1869 (Museum No: EA1971.2
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Introduction

Kabuki, Japan’s popular theatre, has entertained audiences since the early 1600s. Leading kabuki actors became celebrities with massive fan clubs, and there was a huge demand for images of famous actors in their colourful costumes and dramatic make-up. These brightly-coloured woodblock prints of actors were known as ‘yakusha-e’. They often show actors striking an intense pose known as a ‘mie’.

This exhibition displays yakusha-e by 19th century print designers Utagawa Kunisada (1786 - 1864) and Toyohara Kunichika (1835 - 1900), alongside a recently-acquired group of woodblock prints by contemporary Japanese printmaker Tsuruya Kōkei (b. 1946)

Like earlier print designers, Kōkei depicts moments from actual kabuki performances, and his portraits of modern-day kabuki actors, with their exaggerated facial features and hands, strongly evoke earlier yakusha-e. However, unlike the Japanese ukiyo-e artists of previous centuries, who merely provided publishers with drawings for block cutters and printers to work on, Kōkei draws, carves, and prints his own designs.

The actor Nakamura Shikan IV as the fisherman Fukashichi (EA1971.218) The actor Nakamura Shikan IV as the fisherman Fukashichi (EA1971.218)   Onoe Baikō VII as the wet nurse Masaoka (EA2010.42) Onoe Baikō VII as the wet nurse Masaoka (EA2010.42)
Eastern Art Paintings Gallery - Yakusha-e: Kabuki Prints exhibition east wall. © Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University Eastern Art Paintings Gallery - Yakusha-e: Kabuki Prints exhibition east wall.   Eastern Art Paintings Gallery - Yakusha-e: Kabuki Prints exhibition case. © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford Eastern Art Paintings Gallery - Yakusha-e: Kabuki Prints exhibition case.   Eastern Art Paintings Gallery - Yakusha-e: Kabuki Prints exhibition west wall. © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford Eastern Art Paintings Gallery - Yakusha-e: Kabuki Prints exhibition west wall.
Notice

Objects from past exhibitions may have now returned to our stores or a lender. Click into an individual object record to confirm whether or not an object is currently on display. Our object location data is usually updated on a monthly basis, so please contact the Jameel Study Centre if you are planning to visit the museum to see a particular Eastern Art object.

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