Kobayashi Kiyochika

Japanese (1878–1973)

Kobayashi Kiyochika is known as both the last master of the traditional ukiyo-e style and as the first artist of the modern Japanese woodcut. Kiyochika was a Samurai loyal to the Edo Shogunate, and when this empire collapsed with the beginning of the Meiji era in 1868, he turned his interests to art. He claims to have been a self-taught artist, but many critics attribute his incorporation of Western perspective, light, and shading to his supposed studies with the English painter Charles Wirgman.

Kiyochika produced his first prints in 1876, and between then and 1881, created 93 landscape views of Tokyo. Though he is credited as an ukiyo-e painter, his subjects were not limited to this genre’s traditional themes, they ranged from satire to history to landscape. He also experimented in other techniques such as etching, lithography, and photography. From 1882-1883, he was employed by the satirical journal “Marumaru Chinbun” as a political cartoonist. During the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, he was one of many Japanese artists who took up themes of Japan’s victory over the Manchu dynasty of China. Kiyochika created over seventy woodblock prints depicting the war, most of which are triptychs involving designs from three separate blocks being printed consecutively as one image.