AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 236

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Session 236: The Noh Prints of Tsukioka Kogyo: Noh Revival, Printmaking, and the Representation of Performance

Organizer: Katherine Saltzman-Li, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Discussant: Susan Matisoff, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Tsukioka Kogyo (1869-1927) was a master painter and print designer of the Meiji and Taisho Periods. Trained by both his stepfather Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) and the print artist Ogata Gekko (1859-1920), Kogyo is best known for the hundreds of prints he produced depicting and documenting kyogen and the full repertory of noh plays that existed as of the Meiji Period. Tsukioka produced exquisite prints that can help us understand the development of the woodblock print tradition into the Meiji Period and the place of noh in Japanese theatre and cultural history in the early years of the twentieth century. Scholarship on Kogyo’s artistic and cultural importance is only beginning to develop, with only one Japanese language publication devoted to Kogyo and very little written about noh prints in any language. This panel seeks to fill gaps in our knowledge of this important figure. In the three papers that comprise the panel, Richard and Mae Smethurst explore how graphic representations were important to the revival and modern popularization of noh at the beginning of the twentieth century; Bruce Coats addresses twentieth-century artistic developments in printmaking through a study of Kogyo’s innovations and style; and Katherine Saltzman-Li focuses on Tsukioka’s depiction of noh performance and the connections of his work to the theatre prints of the Edo Period.

Tsukioka Kogyo’s Noh Prints: The Legacy of Shibai-e and the Depiction of Performance
Katherine Saltzman-Li, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

The kabuki shibai-e (theatre prints) of the Edo Period include prints of actors in stage roles as well as scenes from plays. The prints had an important relationship of mutual commercial support with actors and theatres. Actors and productions gave printmakers and publishers subject matter that assured them a clientele willing to pay for their products. Conversely, the wide dissemination that resulted from the artistic and fan-support merits of the prints made a significant contribution to the excitement surrounding kabuki and to its centrality in Edo-period culture. Tsukioka Kogyo was an artist in the last gasp of the Edo woodblock tradition. Kogyo had a deep interest in the noh theatre, which he received, along with artistic training, from his stepfather, the great Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). Kogyo produced several series of prints devoted to the noh. His prints represent a continuation of the Edo cultural relationship between woodblock prints and the theatre, and in particular, they offer on paper an essence of the noh experience, as many Edo shibai-e did for kabuki. This paper will explore the depiction of theatrical performance in the woodblock print medium through an examination of several prints in Kogyo’s Nogaku zue (1897-1902) and Nogaku hyakuban (1922-1926). I will emphasize Kogyo’s connections to an artistic and commercial tradition that reaches back to the 17th century, discussing ways in which, while based in that tradition, he was able to take it in new directions that reflected Meiji-period conditions and his noh subject matter.

Tsukioka Kogyo and the Popularization of Noh
Mae J Smethurst, University of Pittsburgh, USA

With the radical restructuring of Japan in the mid-nineteenth century, many traditional art forms lost patronage. The noh theater was significantly affected by the abolition of the samurai class that had funded performances for centuries. Actor Umewaka Minoru (1828-1909) took up the challenge of enabling noh to survive in the public sphere, performing even for paltry ticket fees on poorly furnished stages. His efforts were soon recognized by diplomat Iwakura Tomomi (1825-1883), who had seen opera when traveling in the West. Iwakura realized the importance of presenting iconic cultural performance traditions as a means of impressing foreign visitors, and encouraged support for Umewaka's efforts. In 1876 Iwakura had Umewaka perform for Emperor Meiji and in 1879 for ex-President Ulysses S. Grant who was visiting Japan, and thus the revival of noh began. Observing and supporting this movement was the woodblock print artist Tsukioka Kogyo, who created more than six hundred prints documenting noh. To help familiarize newcomers with noh, Kogyo produced the series Nogaku zue (1897-1902) which depicted specific scenes and listed a brief synopsis of the whole play to the side of each print. Kogyo’s prints offered an interactive world in which the viewer recognizes the delicacy of movement and the emotions expressed by the actor. Until recently very little scholarly attention has been given to Kogyo and his contributions to the popularization of noh; this joint presentation will examine the cultural contexts and the developments within noh during this period of drastic transformation.

Imaging Noh New: Noh Theater Prints in the Twentieth Century
Bruce A. Coats, Scripps College, USA

The noh theater prints of Tsukioka Kogyo mark a dramatic change in the Japanese print tradition that parallels the innovations happening on stage and elsewhere in woodblock print production. Influenced by Western watercolors and photographs, and interested in representing movement and three-dimensionality, Kogyo developed a unique artistic style which was copied and carried on well into the twentieth century by his students, followers and competitors, including his daughter Tsukioka Gyokusei (b. 1908), his disciple Matsuno Sofu (1899-1963) and his rival Yamaguchi Ryoshu (1886-1966). At a time when kabuki actor print designers, such as Torii Kiyotada VII (1875-1941) and Ueno Tadamasa (1904-1970), were reviving early-eighteenth century styles, Kogyo was creating a new vision and a market niche that would prove popular internationally. This paper will examine that artistic style and how noh and kyogen theater prints evolved in the twentieth century.