What a great gift I received today. When someone knows you well, they find an Utagawa Kuniyoshi of a great Kabuki play. Thank you.
I had three of these books as a child, but never colored them in. It’s because I appreciated the artist’s work. Without knowing the artist’s intentions, it was impossible to touch them. Isn’t it interesting to see the mimasu of the three rice measures? Obviously, it was a kabuki and ukiyo-e lesson for life. Too bad there were no words other than “Crayon Book” and “Made in Japan”.
For some reason, Americans like to steal from their friends. In no other country have I ever had anything stolen. Lucky, perhaps, I never had anything stolen from me until the last year of prep school. The entire group of tiny sculptures I had done for a final art show at the Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut was stolen. These included little nudes, female and male in the spirit of equal rights. My favorite was a seated two-inch figure that I called, “Man with an Erection.” If you stole one, or all, email me with a photo. I’d just like to see what was so great that you had to add them to your collection .
Next, at the Maryland Institute, College of Art (Now known by the stupid acronym MICA, what is it a reference to? The glittering mineral of little value?) in Baltimore, I had lots of art, supplies and things stolen. Not by thieves, but by friends. While complaining about the loss of a vinyl album, Meet the Bee Gees, a friend of mine, Joe Fontana, told me that he had stolen it. He refused to return it. His actions were incomprehensible.
I was very poor, putting myself through college. Money was so tight that I had to work five part-time jobs just to pay the rent, school tuition and basic survival. As gentrification booted me from one cheap, run-down apartment to the next, at one point I found myself renting a room along with five medical students from Johns Hopkins. One of them, a girl named Paula, was a compulsive kleptomaniac. I was warned by the others to just search her room and take back anything that I missed. That’s not the most odd part about rooming with these kids.
One day we all returned from our classes to find out a real professional thief had broken into our shared brownstone. One of the boys’ bicycles was stolen from the hallway, jewelry from the girls, money from dressers and other valuables. I wasn’t that concerned because I owned almost nothing aside from art supplies and books. I didn’t own a dress, let alone a dresser. All I had was a sleeping bag. When I went to check my room, I found ten crisp dollar bills laid out neatly side-by-side on my army surplus sleeping bag. The others, who were quite wealthy by comparison just laughed. It seems that I was one of the only people in history to have been taken pity on by a thief.
What hurts is that I left some paintings at a friend’s house in the basement and they were all “stolen.” I especially regret the loss of a painting that was a final project for Professor Hershberg. He had given me an A, and told me that, on the strength of that work, I should become a painter. The subject was the genitals of a redheaded man, glorious ginger pubic hair, milky white thighs and rosy man parts. The rest of my paintings were also meaningful in another way, because my father and I had made the stretchers from scrap wood. I couldn’t afford the pricey store-bought ones. I had ground the pigments, scooped the paint into empty tubes, and boiled rabbit skin glue to prime the canvas. When I asked what had happened to the pile of canvases, she shrugged nonchalantly and said something about friends taking the paintings they liked. As if that were justification. When I spotted a rabbit that I had carved out of soapstone, she had the nerve to ask if she could keep it. I grabbed it and left my sister-in-law’s house.
These are, to be sure, some of my art adventures, but if I am any example, thievery is common among friends. My engagement ring was stolen by another Wooster School alumna. When I was in the hospital, a friend and her friend cleaned my home of my remaining jewelry and other items that appealed to them. Even my mother’s friend stole a book I was reading from me while on a visit. At least a dozen of my photographs and negatives have been stolen. Six have ended up on CD covers and in books and promotional materials. The one who used the most was a friend, now deceased, who never apologized.
All of these incidents are indicative to me of a corruption of values. I would never steal. “Thou shalt not steal” has been heard, but not understood by Christians. Even my dog does not steal food from my cat when the tempting morsel is ten inches from his nose and the cat is sniffing it, considering whether or not he wants it. I have to pick it up and offer it before the dog will eat it. The dog shows respect for another’s property. I guess this makes a lot of people lower than dogs.
If you think that your god will forgive you for stealing from an artist, I won’t. Common ridiculous excuses I have heard include, “You can always make another one.” Another one I hate is, You should be flattered.” This makes me angry. You should be flattered if I give you a piece of art.
I needed to get this rant out of my system to better enjoy the Super Happy World of art.
Artist Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) shows a Kabuki actor dressed as a woman from the series “Index of Favorite Actors Showing Off”. The face reflected in the battledore -shaped mirror is identical. The feet are too large and masculine for a woman in this beautiful Japanese print.
Why did Kabuki theater have only male actors? Because women were punished by legislation that was intended to curb the prostitution that followed the first performances (later, young boys were also banned from performing for the same reason). The history of Kabuki began in 1603 when a woman, Izumo no Okuni, who was an apprentice at the Temple of Izumo began performing with a troupe of female dancers a daring new style of dance drama, on a makeshift stage in the dry bed of the Kamo River in Kyoto according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
The older Noh style of dance was formal, gracefully stylized and with a tradition influenced by Buddist doctrine. Noh was stately, for aristocratic samurai audiences while Kabuki was wild, shocking and flamboyantly dramatic; appealing to the average citizen. Kyogen is a third form of ancient comedic theater for the masses with an influence on Kabuki (See youtube.com, NHK Kabuki Kool 2016, Discover Kabuki Based on Noh and Kyogen Documentary). Kabuki was the first entertainment conceived for the masses.
I propose that it is Okuni’s revenge that male actors have had to study femininity closely for hundreds of years. Walking miles in the shoes of female warriors, poets, ghosts and all types of heroines on stage has surely led to a unique understanding and respect for women by the actors and by the artist.
Information from kuniyoshiproject.com
Series: Index of Favorite Actors Showing Off, Yakusha kidori hi-iki-biiki,
Subject: Female standing in front of calligraphy
Actor: Ichikawa Hakuen
Publisher: Maru-ya Jimpachi, c. 1840
Size: Oban, about 14″ x 10″
From Kuniyoshi’s 1847 series: Sixteen Female Sennin, Charming Creatures. Sennin is a loan word from Chinese, where they were Taoist wise immortals. Pictured on this print, a beautiful woman holds a cloth while her cat eats a fish. An overturned bowl is on the floor behind her. She seems happy and serene but I am unable to find any information on the Sennin Shohei, so part of the meaning is lost on me.
(Enshi jû-roku josen, 艶姿十六女仙)
In addition to the eight principal male immortals, some texts also mention eight female immortals. This series pair beautiful women with each of these sixteen immortals, with a poem inscribed on each print. The series is listed as number 58 in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961).
I own the far left panel of this triptych by Kuniyoshi. Today I was very interested to see the entire image. From knowledge of the left panel only, the subject was samurai being ripped apart by tigers and a leopard. Kuniyoshi has shown both sides of the savagery in his art.
Information from the Fujiarts.com online gallery:
Original Kuniyoshi (1797 – 1861) Japanese Woodblock Print
Watonai Chasing Tigers, 1855
Comments – Incredible triptych of the renowned samurai Kato Kiyomasa (here called Watonai) and his men chasing tigers in Taiwan which have carried off some of his men. Kiyomasa was a leader during Japan’s Seven Year War with Korea in the 16th century. Fully armed and clutching a spear, the warrior watches from a cliff overhanging a river as two tigers swim away with soldiers in their mouths, a young cub perched on the back of one animal. On the opposite shore, another tiger mauls its victim. The dark night sky and craggy rocks heighten the tension of the scene. An amazing woodblock with a great dramatic subject, beautifully detailed and shaded. A wonderful choice for collectors interested in the samurai tradition.
Artist – Kuniyoshi (1797 – 1861)
Image Size – 14 1/4″ x 29 3/4″
Condition – This print with excellent color and detail as shown. Three separate panels. A few small wormholes, repaired. A few creases. Please see photos for details.
A pleasant scene from artist Kuniyoshi from the life of a mid-19th century Japanese man. This genre ukiyo-e is fascinating. It explains how the men of the time acquired their fancy topknots. The customer is relaxed and serene as the barber concentrates on the job before him. The tatami mats and the beautifully marbelized toolbox create marvelous detail.
Information from Fujiarts.com:
Kuniyoshi (1797 – 1861) Japanese Woodblock Print
Barber Styling a Man’s Hair, 1848
Barber Styling a Man’s Hair, 1848 – Handsome kabuki scene of a barber styling the hair of Nosaku no Kyusaku, who sits on a straw mat, his legs crossed before him. The barber leans over as he combs the man’s hair, frowning angrily. A wooden chest at lower left holds the barber’s tools and a basin of water for shaving customers. Nicely detailed with an interesting setting.
Artist – Kuniyoshi (1797 – 1861)
Image Size – 13 7/8″ x 9 3/4″