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Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) -19th Century Japanese Woodblock, Kabuki Play



An incredibly vibrant and dynamic traditional Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock triptych by Toyohara Kunichika. Toyohara was best known for his kabuki theater scenes and this is a fine example of one of these. This particular scene shows kabuki actors are performing at the Shintomiza Theatre, playing the "The Battles of Kawanajima" which became one of the most cherished tales in Japanese military history, the epitome of Japanese chivalry and romance, mentioned in epic literature, woodblock printing, and movies. Three elaborately dressed samurai bare down upon an unarmored enemy. One samurai is unsheathing his sword, another holds a military signaling fan and the third brings up the rear with his hand placed in readiness on his hilt.

The print is completed with sections of a story written in kanji. The artist's signature and seal can be seen on each pane of the triptych. The print is presented in a three window off-white card mount.

On washi.


The print is in remarkable condition, given its age. there is a transference of ink on the left characters face from another's patterned robe where is has been stored. The mount has several scuffs and marks on it.


35.3 x 74.5cm (13.9" x 29.3")
Framed Size: 59 x 100cm (23.2" x 39.4")

Artist Biography

Toyohara Kunichika (Japanese: 豊原 国周; 30 June 1835 – 1 July 1900) was a Japanese woodblock print artist. Talented as a child, at about thirteen he became a student of Tokyo's then-leading print maker, Utagawa Kunisada. His deep appreciation and knowledge of kabuki drama led to his production primarily of ukiyo-e actor-prints, which are woodblock prints of kabuki actors and scenes from popular plays of the time.

An alcoholic and womanizer, Kunichika also portrayed women deemed beautiful (bijinga), contemporary social life, and a few landscapes and historical scenes. He worked successfully in the Edo period, and carried those traditions into the Meiji period. To his contemporaries and now to some modern art historians, this has been seen as a significant achievement during a transitional period of great social and political change in Japan's history.

More Information
Code qc314
Artist Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900)
Date Late 19th Century
Dimensions 35.3 x 74.5cm
Medium Japanese Woodblock
Style Illustration Art
Subject Fashion & Costumes
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