Working in the19th century he witnessed Japan’s exposure to the outside world after centuries of isolation. Such a cultural shock must have been massive and we can thank him for his critique of the changes taking place.
The absolute mastery of draughtsmanship gained after many years of study and the energy of mark-making as well as his keen sense of humour makes this an absolute delight. Kyōsai learnt much from the new European influences, adapting them into his practice.
I’ll concentrate on only two paintings here: Night Procession of One Hundred Demons and Ink Battle.
Just a note to bear in mind: painting with ink means you can’t amend anything once it’s been painted. Each brushstroke has to be the right one – there is no margin of error.
The assortment of strange creatures in this magnificent screen derive from medieval folk tales but feel very much alive and present.
I couldn’t choose favourites but Ink Battle below shows a master at work. Kyōsai‘s confidence and liveliness of painting is breath-taking. And they’re really funny too.
Scroll down to see close-ups.
It is obvious looking at these how influential his work has been (and continues to be) to future generations.