The works of the nineteenth-century printmaker Kuniyoshi and his contemporaries have been described as "decadent" in the traditional history of Japanese printmaking. One glance at the prints exhibited here shows how impressive they are in reality. Kuniyoshi's brilliant colors and bold compositions complement his subjects, which are often drawn from historical narrative or legendary and supernatural tales. His powerful compositions, frequently executed in the form of triptychs, are conceived on a scale unknown before the nineteenth century.
This small exhibition commemorates the two hundredth anniversary of Kuniyoshi's birth on January 1, 1798. The works selected, most of which date to the 1840s and 1850s, convey the richness of the artist's creative imagination and his broad-ranging interests. In addition to his narrative illustrations of historical and legendary subjects, the exhibition includes a Buddhist triptypch, prints of courtesans and genre scenes, bird-and-flower prints, and a sketchbook of preparatory drawings for print compositions.
Kuniyoshi 's prolific output shows how widely his prints were appreciated during his own lifetime. Their vitality, brilliant surfaces, and forcefully expressive designs may still be savored by the contemporary viewer, whose enjoyment begins with an understanding of these qualities of Kuniyoshi 's art.