Japan art and Kiyokata Kaburaki: Meiji to early Taisho

Japan art and Kiyokata Kaburaki: Meiji to early Taisho

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kiyokata Kaburaki (Kaburagi) was born in 1878 in Tokyo during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and lived until 1972. One can only imagine the changing world he witnessed – and how moving to Kamakura brought profound solace to him.

The above art piece is a rare lithographic print. Some confusion abounds because the year says 1910 (Meiji) as the year of completion. However, information also says, “rarely seen Taisho era.” This is contradictory because the Taisho Period is 1912-1926. Therefore, the presumption is this stunning lithographic print was completed on the border of both Japanese periods – and possibly published in the early Taisho Period.

The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, says, “Born in Tokyo at a time when it still retained strong characteristics of Edo (as the city was known until 1868), Kaburaki, a genuine Meiji-era Tokyoite, created a host of works dealing with Edo and Tokyo throughout his life… In addition to Kaburaki’s genres paintings of Edo and Tokyo, he is known for works that deal with literature, drama, kabuki, and rakugo storytelling.” 

The other two prints were completed during the late Meiji Period. Also, the second and third pieces were frontispieces for novels – called kuchi-e (opening pictures – mouth pictures).

Interestingly, the British Museum says “Once his position as a leading Nihonga painter was secure, however, he felt able to refer to himself as ‘Kiyokata, last painter in the Ukiyo-e line’ (‘Ukiyo-e matsuryu Kiyokata’) …”

In the later period of his life, Kiyokata Kaburaki moved to Kamakura. The lure of Kamakura and Kita Kamakura also attracted Kuroda Seiki, Kume Keiichirō, Kishida Ryūsei, Ogura Yuki, Maeda Seison, Moriya Tadashi, Ōta Chōu, Hirayama Ikuo, Itō Shinsui, and other esteemed artists.

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