On March 14, Ronin Gallery started the Asia Week 2018 festivities early with the opening of Kuniyoshi: The Masterpieces. With cocktails in hand, guests explored the ravenous imagination and unmatched skill of this ukiyo-e master. From Tametomo and his Son Rescued from the Sea Monster by Tengu to Princess Takiyasha and the Skeleton Specter, this exhibition includes many of Kuniyoshi's most iconic designs.
While the term ukiyo-e often calls to mind elegant courtesans and picturesque landscapes, Kuniyoshi's work represents another side of Edo-period woodblock printmaking. As his contemporaries considered the physical realms of the Edo's floating world, Kuniyoshi captured a phantasmagoria of warriors, ghosts, and heroes. Kuniyoshi's works were welcomed by a changing tide in public taste and surging interest in the fierce, frightening, and fantastical in Edo. Though Kuniyoshi’s talent extended throughout nearly every genre of ukiyo-e, his particular genius felt most at home in the world of martial glory, where epic battles decided the fate of empires and fierce warriors clashed to the death.
The son of silk dyer, Kuniyoshi was born in Edo and said to have shown remarkable talent from a young age. At 14, he was accepted to study the art of woodblock printing under Toyokuni I and, in time, would become his most notable student. Such success did not come easily. Kuniyoshi set out as an independent artist in 1814, but was forced to sell tatami mats in order to support himself. However, fortune shifted in 1827 with his dramatic series 108 Heroes of the Suikoden (1827-1830). From that point on, the public hungered for his portrayals of famous samurai and legendary heroes. Embracing the triptych format and imbuing his subject matter with a tangible sense of movement, Kuniyoshi awakened the warrior spirit and defined himself as a master of ukiyo-e.
A warm thank you to all who joined us for the opening. Couldn't make the party or eager for a second look? The exhibition is on view in the gallery through April 28th and available online here.