Sunday, May 11, 2014


One Hundred Faces - Gossip, Stutterer

Kobayashi Kiyochika made the compilation of humorous gestures and faces titled “Shinban Sanju-ni So” (New Thirty-two Faces). Because of the popularity of the series, he made additional designs and combined them into one series, “Tsuika Hyaku Men So” (Addition; One Hundred Faces).
From left top to right bottom: “Mimi Komori” (whisper, gossip). “Domori” (Stutterer). “Tohmi” (Looking far away, Oh so beautiful...). “Karashi ga kiita” (Very effective mustard. Wow, so spicy!).

Kobayashi Kiyochika (小林 清親 September 10, 1847- November 28, 1915) was a Japanese ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Meiji period,born at a time when the old order of the Shogunate was already on shaky grounds and an adolescent when Western civilization rolled over Japan. For him, life became like a small boat in a rough sea
He was born into a family of lower-ranked samurai that served the Tokugawa family — something which a hundred years earlier or even fifty years earlier would have been a very pleasant thing; but in Japan, times were changing.
In 1853 a U.S. Naval fleet of black iron ships — unknown before in Japan — anchored off the Japanese coast near Uraga. One year later in 1854, Japan was forced to open its borders for commercial relations with the United States in the Treaty of Kanagawa. This was the end of the old order. From then on, things changed too rapidly for a country that had sealed off its borders for 250 years.
Soon skirmishes broke out between the Loyalists — supporters of the old (Edo Period) order, mainly the samurai class who saw their century-old privileges going down the drain — and the promoters of the new order. The enemies of the Shogun rallied around the Emperor, who had resided in Kyoto since 1192 as a purely ceremonial figurehead — a toothless tiger.
But now, the tiger began to wake up and to show his teeth after nearly 700 years of subjugation by the Shogunate, which had exercised the real power in the country. Several fierce battles were fought between the two camps. The most bloody and the decisive one was the Battle of Ueno in which 2000 men of the Shogunate troops were badly defeated. The last Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu resigned in 1868.
Kobayashi Kiyochika had been fighting on the side of the Shogunate. He survived that time, the Bakumatsu, unharmed; but with the establishment of the new Meiji era under the rule of the Emperor Meiji, he found himself, in effect, a ronin — a lordless samurai. In the beginning he tried to survive by doing odd jobs. Later, in 1875, he tried his luck as a self-taught painter.
During that time, he happened to meet  Charles Wirgman, an English painter, cartoonist and correspondant for a British newspaper in Yokohama. Kobayashi studied art with him for a short period. Also at that time, he met Shimooka Renjo, a photographer, from whom he learned the principles of photography.
The following year, 1876, Kobayashi Kiyochika created his first woodblock prints — scenes from Tokyo. Although his prints were basically kept in traditional Japanese style, Kiyochika used Western elements like perspective, the effect of light and the graduations of shadows, having read about the French impressionists and seen photographs of their works in newspapers.
In the early 1880s, Kiyochika's style became a bit more traditional. He also turned to satirical cartoons and illustrations for newspapers and magazines. During the Sino-Japanese war he made about 80 war prints. War prints were like a last commercial resurgence of the old ukiyo-e business. Kobayashi's war prints are regarded as among the best in this genre, with a masterly play on the effects of light.
In 1894, Kiyochika established his own art school. One of his students was Tsuchiya Koitsu who stayed in his master's home for 19 years. Today Kobayashi is considered as the last master of the “old” ukiyo-e. But he was more than that. He was able to combine traditional ukiyo-e with modern Western style and thus showed a new direction for a subsequent generation of young artists like Hasui Kawase or Hiroshi Yoshida.
Despite his efforts, he could not stop the commercial decline of ukiyo-e, but he did pave the way for a new renaissance of the Japanese print - the Shin Hanga movement.

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