Jonathan Jones*1 “Kyōsai review – wild satirical swipes at the western world” https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/mar/15/kyosai-review-royal-academy-london
ジョーンズ氏のレヴューは、開国と文明開化の時代に生きた暁斎と「西洋」との対決という側面にフォーカスしている――”His paintings on scrolls and woodblock prints, made from the 1850s to his death in 1889, are full of witty portraits of Europeans and a not always happy marriage of Japanese and western styles.”
The Japan into which Kyōsai was born had kept its borders closed for centuries. His lifetime saw the first visit by an American fleet, the end of the Tokugawa shogunate that had restricted foreign contact, the legalisation of Christianity and the coming of railways and the telegraph. He’s constantly making satirical swipes at these changes. In one picture Jesus is portrayed on the cross, holding a fan. In another Mr Punch, from Punch magazine, features as a demon. More demons attend a strict western-style school in a satire on educational reforms.
Yet in spite of Kyōsai’s apparent ambivalence about all these new western ways, he enthusiastically embraces European art. He seems to have seen a lot of English satirical prints – not just Punch but the earlier, wilder art of James Gillray*4 and Thomas Rowlandson*5. In his painting Party in a Hotel in Suez, Japanese people mingle with European travellers in a boozy cosmopolitan gathering that’s like Hogarth on sake. Apparently Kyōsai was extremely fond of the sake. There’s a whole bunch of paintings here that he did with dozens of friends at art festivals, drinking as they drew.
The results are quirky and engaging. In one scroll painting, Kyōsai contrasts peoples of the world: a European couple, with the man in a top hat, Kyōsai’s universal attribute of western males, along with Inuit, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai people, who are all watched curiously by a Japanese couple. He’s registering the human carnival to which Japan has opened itself. In a woodblock print from 1863 called Foreigners and Samurai, outsiders directly confront the traditional Japanese elite, as howling and grimacing Europeans point angrily at cross-legged samurai, with swords, who grin, mock and look tough in return.
*1:See also http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100606/1275839941 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100702/1278043288 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20120122/1327199681 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20120625/1340552169 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130710/1373467332 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130710/1373467332 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20141026/1414337023 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20160324/1458832140 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20160416/1460824925 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20160511/1462894474 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20160702/1467479634 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20160802/1470151596 https://sumita-m.hatenadiary.com/entry/20170521/1495431117
*4:https://www.james-gillray.org/ See eg. Martin Rowson “Satire, sewers and statesmen: why James Gillray was king of the cartoon” https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/mar/21/satire-sewers-and-statesmen-james-gillray-king-of-cartoon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Gillray https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%B8%E3%82%A7%E3%83%BC%E3%83%A0%E3%82%BA%E3%83%BB%E3%82%AE%E3%83%AB%E3%83%AC%E3%82%A4
*5:See eg. https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/name/thomas-rowlandson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Rowlandson https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2013/dec/29/comic-art-thomas-rowlandson-in-pictures