Kogyo (1869 - 1927)
Arashiyama: The god Zao Gongen dances among the cherry trees at Arashiyama
About the artist
Kogyo Tsukioka was a woodblock print artist, painter, and illustrator who brought the theatrical art of noh to life through rich, painterly colors and shimmering costumes. While he is best known for scenes of the noh stage, he also produced some war prints and nature studies. Born in Tokyo in 1869 as Hanyu (Sakamaki) Bennosuke (sometimes read Sadanosuke), Kogyo was the son of an innkeeper in the Nihonbashi district. He began his career as an artisan. At age twelve, he worked as his uncle's apprentice decorating pottery for foreign export, then attended a prefectural institute to study glass, stone, and ceramic work in 1884. Kogyo entered the workshop of renowned ukiyo-e artist Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892) in 1885 before studying under painter and printmaker Gekko Ogata (1859-1920), from whom he received the name "Kogyo." His interest in noh theater first bloomed in his late 20s. At this time, the traditional theatrical art was actively redefining itself for the modern era. Shaking off its aristocratic associations, Noh expanded its audience, both to the greater public in Japan and internationally, through the visits of foreign dignitaries. As the audience of noh grew, Kogyo broke new ground in the depiction of noh subjects. Rather than foregrounding the actors’ personas, Kogyo creates a subtle sense of the stage and set to capture the fleeting moments of a live performance. It is thought that Kogyo's series such as A Great Mirror of Noh Pictures (Noga Taikan, c. 1925-30) and illustrations for the popular periodical Manners and Customer in Pictures (Fuzoku gaho, 1898-1916) contributed to the popularization of this traditional art form. By the time of Kogyo’s death in 1927, noh theater had secured a significant standing in popular culture.