Satirical Comics
Satirical Comics - Kawanabe Kyosai - 1831-1889
Kawanabe Kyosai - 1831-1889

Kawanabe Kyosai was a drinker and a genius, a painter and printmaker of the weird, the comic and the obscure. He belonged to the generation of ukiyo-e artists in transformation from the Edo to the Meiji period, from the Middle Ages to a Modern Industrialized Society.

First Publication: MAy 2002
Latest Update: February 2014

Record Price for Painting by Kyosai Kawanabe

In August 2000 a painting by Kawanabe Kyosai on a two-fold screen was hammered at 400,000 British Pounds at Christie's in London, the highest price ever paid for a painting of the Meiji era.

Pupil of Kuniyoshi

Kawanabe Kyosai was born with the original name of Shusaburo as the son of a samurai. When he was only 6 years old, he joined the school of the great ukiyo-e master Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Later he studied traditional Japanese painting at the Kano school.

The Sake Friends

Kawanabe Kyosai was an eccentric guy who exaggerated everything he did - from his consumption of sake wine to his painting and printmaking style. With his fellow artists Kunichika and Kobayashi Kiyochika, Kyosai frequently went on drinking binges. Like Kunichika he was great in inventing great stories.

Traditional, Comic and Weird

The output of Kawanabe Kyosai's creativity was enormous. At the end of his life, he had produced hundreds of paintings, prints and illustrated books.

The paintings and print subjects of Kyosai are from traditional to bizarre and fantastic. He was incredibly imaginative and created designs that have no relations to any known art works of any other Japanese or Western artists. His drawing style was unique and at the same time he was capable of painting in the finest traditional style of a 18th century painter.

Many of his designs are comic, satiric, humorous and sketchy. Others are strange, weird and frightening.

Kawanabe Kyosai and Josiah Conder

Namiyoke Shrine at Tsukiji
Namiyoke Shrine at Tsukiji - Kawanabe Kyosai - 1831-1889
Kawanabe Kyosai - 1831-1889
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Kawanabe Kyosai always had a lively interest in Western art. But he was never interested in imitating it.

When Westerners came into the country, Kyosai came into contact with several of them like Ernest Fenollosa. Two foreigners became especially important in documenting Kyosai's biography. One was Emile Guimet, who visited him in 1876 in Japan and later wrote his memories down in an essay titled Promenades Japonaises.

The other source of documentation of the artist's life and works became Josiah Conder, a British architect, who became his student in 1877. Josiah Conder stayed with Kyosai until his death in 1889. Back in England, Josiah Conder wrote a book, published in 1911 titled Paintings and Studies by Kawanabe Kyosai.

Kyosai Kawanabe - Video

John Teramoto, curator of Asian Art, explains a Daruma scroll painting made by Kyosai Kawanabe. Concise, precise and quite interesting.

Other Pages Related to Kawanabe Kyosai

  Google for Kawanabe Kyosai.  Search BING for Kawanabe Kyosai.

Dieter WanczuraAuthor: Dieter Wanczura

Literature sources for this Kawanabe Kyosai biography

  • Oikawa Shigeru, Clark Timothy and Forrer Matthi, "Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyosai", Tokyo Shinbun, 1996

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