Kunichika Toyohara, Kabuki Play, Ichikawa Family, Actors


Original Japanese woodblock print.

Artist: Kunichika Toyohara (1835-1900)
Title: Ichikawa Danjuro as Banzui Chobei and Ichikawa Sadanji as Mizuno Publisher: Jurosaemon
Date: late 19th century
Size: (L) 37.2 x 25.2, (C) 37.2 x 24.4, (R) 37.1 x 24.1 cm
Condition report: Separated panels with paper residue. Minor creases. Small red stain at the bottom of the left print. Small black stain on the hand of the right-hand side actor. 

Kunichika Toyohara represents one of the last artists at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) who continued to make ukiyo-e prints with full respect to the old-school, traditional ways. He was of central importance for the production of actors' portraits (yakusha-e) and pictures of theatre performances (shibai-e) at that time.


The kabuki play 'Kiwametsuki Banzui Chobei' presents the story of Cho¯bei who supported the causes of common people against the arrogant samurai warrior class. After an incident with a drunken samurai at a theatre, a high ranking lord invites Cho¯bei to his house for revenge. Knowing the danger, brave Cho¯bei accepts the invitation and a fight ensues. This print captures that moment in a wonderful scene that spreads across the three panels of the triptych.

Kunichika Toyohara (1835 - 1900)

One of the last great masters of ukiyo-e, Kunichika was inspired by the plays, actors and customs of kabuki theatre. His colourful prints are records of a long lost, decadent underworld of Edo. As a young man, he studied with the ukiyo-e artist Chikanobu, from whom he received his artist name. He then apprenticed under Kunisada and began to produce actor prints in the Utagawa style, though he never used the Utagawa name. Unlike most artists of the period, he made use of strong reds and dark purples, often as background colours, rather than the softer colours that had previously been used. These new colours were made of aniline dyes imported in the Meiji period from Germany. When portraying people he only occasionally showed figures wearing Western dress, despite its growing popularity in Japan. He is also one of the best known artists to have designed a great number of prints featuring tattoos, a genre made popular earlier in Edo period by Kuniyoshi Utagawa.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistKunichika Toyohara (1835 - 1900)
SubjectSamurai & Male, Kabuki Theatre
Size(L) 37.2 x 25.2, (C) 37.2 x 24.4, (R) 37.1 x 24.1 cm