Monday, January 29, 2018

Kawanabe Kyōsai's Monsters

Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889) was a Japanese artist who created exuberant monsters. 

Japan was closed to the outside world for a couple of hundred years during the Edo period. Kyōsai was born the son of a samurai in a feudal society. 

Japanese government and society underwent radical change between the Edo and the Meiji periods, including an opening to the West. Kyōsai responded with wild living and biting satire. 

According to a Western observer, he would fuel up on 1.8 liters of the strongest sake before he started painting.

Kyōsai criticized not only European culture, but also of Japan's submission to it.
"He is recorded as having assaulted fellow artists and in 1870 was imprisoned for his scurrilous depictions of western visitors. While his contemporaries of the Meiji period chose to depict the elegant society of Ukiyo-e, the 'floating world', Kyosai plumbed the depths of his own drink-addled mind to create a fantastic menagerie of animals, ghosts and demons which rivals the most excessive grotesqueries of Disney's Fantasia or Marvel comics."—The Independent

If you don't mind outrageous visual humor, check out this NSFW link to his epic "Fart Battle" and blogger Dr. Yokai's interpretation of it.
Wikipedia Kawanabe Kyōsai
• A Crazy Sake-Fuelled Trip to Kawanabe Kyōsai's School for Spooks
• Crazy like a badger: The Japanese demon painter, Kawanabe Kyosai, overindulged in sake for art's sake. Iain Gale inspects the damage


Celia said...

This was a great post. Thanks for expanding my view of Japanese art and artists. Been reading the links which carried me further and futher.

Katharine said...

The combination of your content on art theory and technique, and posts like this, are what make this blog great. Thanks so much!

João said...

These are great. Yokai, the japanese folklore monsters, are really central to much of japanese art, including literature, manga, anime and traditional painting. There's an American printmaker, David Bull, who's made a name for himself in Japan exploring some of that. Love his work! Check him out at
I should been following your blog more closely!!