7 November 2007,
London, King Street
Price Realised GBP 1,250
Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Tokiri Otsu-e kitai maremono [Otsu Paintings Coming Alive], signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi, kiri seal, published by Minatoko, censors' seals Hama and Kinugasa, good impression, colours and condition; and Ukiyo Matabei meiga no kidoku [Ukiyo Matabei and actors as Otsu-e Characters], Otsu characters springing into life from the brush of Matabei (with whom Kuniyoshi identified), and whirling around, signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi, kiri seal, published by Koshimuraya Heisuke, date seal Ox 8 (1853), good impression, colours and condition, slight soiling; and in a very similar vein, the centre sheet of the triptych Meiyo migi ne tekinashi Hidari Jingoro, [Subjects come to Life Around Hidari Jingoro] where this time Kuniyoshi visualises himself as the famous left-handed sculptor Hidari Jingoro (who also was a cat lover) bringing his wooden carvings to life, signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi, published by Kinshodo
Oban tate-e (3)
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The first is a delightful fantasy of figures springing to life from the brush of Ukiyo Matabei, an earlier painter whose paintings were said to be so lifelike that they floated forth from the paper. However, although the face is concealed here by a floating piece of paper the artist portrayed is clearly Kuniyoshi himself as evidenced by the accompanying cat and the stylised paulownia emblem on the fan beside him.
Although the second design appears to be a harmless piece of whimsy it was produced in 1853 shortly after the alarming arrival of Commander Perry and it was thought by rather jumpy officials to represent the Shogun and his advisors rushing around in a panic: once again Kuniyoshi was summoned to appear before the authorities and although he managed to artgue his way out of the charge, the publisher was punished and the blocks were confiscated.
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The first, Robert Schaap, Heroes and Ghosts (Amsterdam, 1998), p.25