Kabuki Prints Soon to be Displayed at the British Museum
Actor Danjuro VII by Utagawa Kunisada, 1852. Photography by Utagawa Kunisada © The Trustees of the British Museum
Kabuki, the traditional Japanese epic form of theatre which enjoyed its heyday from the 1600s to 1800s, is centred on male plays. It may have strict rules, but it is still spectacular and extravagant, and came into being on stage, but has held onto a trace of its importance through illustrations which capture the wild facial expressions of the protagonists.
Tim Clark, supervisor of the Japanese section of the British Museum, has just acquired 359 prints which show the kabuki actors’ different facial expressions. These treasures will be exhibited in 2019 in the museum’s Mitsubishi Corporation galleries. It’s a great opportunity to head to London and admire the British Museum’s showy Japanese collection.
The actor Iwai Hanshirō V as the courtesan Keshozaka no Shosho, 1831. Photography by Utagawa Kunisada © The Trustees of the British Museum
Danjūrō IX as Ono no Yorikaze, 1863. Photography by Utagawa Kunisada © The Trustees of the British Museum
Danjūrō VII conducting a Buddhist memorial service before a portrait of his deceased son, 1854. Photography by Utagawa Kunisada © The Trustees of the British Museum
Danjūrō IX as Hori no Ranmaru, 1852. Photography by Utagawa Kunisada © The Trustees of the British Museum
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