Kawanabe Kyosai, the Japanese Printmaker Who Pioneered Manga, Finally Gets His Due

From ArtNews, by Chadwick Hagan

When it comes to Japanese printmaking of the 19th century, Hiroshige and Hokusai have tended to dominate the conversation. But a third figure, Kawanabe Kyōsai, has begun to enter the public view outside Japan, thanks in part to a recently closed survey at London’s Royal Academy of Arts. Notorious during his lifetime both for his art and for his eccentric personality, Kyōsai only lived to be 58, but during his short career, he managed to pioneer the art of manga. Prolific and profound, he left an enduring legacy of paintings, caricatures, sketches, illustrated books and prints, many of which can be found in the Israel Goldman collection that formed the basis of the Royal Academy show.

“I purchased my first Kyōsai’s piece in the ’80s at auction,” Goldman said in an interview. “That started the collection.” Curated by Kyōsai scholar Sadamura Koto, Royal Academy chief curator Adrian Locke, and Goldman himself, the Royal Academy exhibition was the first showing of Kyōsai’s work in the United Kingdom since the British Museum held one in 1993. Many of the pieces in the exhibit had never been published or viewed publicly. The show traced Kyōsai’s interactions with modernity, the approaching westernization of Japan, and the Meiji period while also offering a look at his painting and printmaking processes.

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