Utagawa Kuniyoshi / Utagawa Kunisada

Left: Utagawa Kuniyoshi: “Nozarashi Gosuke”. Right: Utagawa Kunisada I: “The In-demand Type (Yoku uresô)”

‘Showdown! Kuniyoshi vs. Kunisada’ at MFA Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, presents an exhibition focusing on the rivality between Japanese artists Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861) and Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1864). August 11–December 10, 2017

Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Rival artists Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861) and Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1864) were the two bestselling designers of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in 19th-century Japan. Kunisada was the popular favorite during his lifetime, famous for realistic portraits of Kabuki theater actors, sensual images of beautiful women and the luxurious settings he imagined for historical scenes. Kuniyoshi is beloved by today’s connoisseurs and collectors for his dynamic action scenes of tattooed warriors and supernatural monsters—foreshadowing present-day manga and anime—as well as comic prints and a few especially daring works that feature forbidden political satire in disguise.

The exhibition presents a selection of 100 works, drawn entirely from the MFA’s preeminent Japanese collection. Many of these, including large, multi-sheet images in brilliant color, are on view in the US for the first time. Viewers are invited to decide for themselves which of the two artists is their personal favorite.

More Asian Art at the MFA
In addition to this exhibition, the MFA is hosting “Conservation in Action: Demons and Demon Quellers” focusing on the restoration of a 12-foot portrait of the mythological demon queller Marshal Xin, the “Thunder Guardian,” dating back to China’s Ming dynasty and on view to the public for the first time. Marshal Xin was an impressive figure in Daoism, the popular belief system in imperial China, with powers to control ghosts and spirits, summon thunder and rain, and avert evil. The MFA’s 16th-century portrait may have once hung in a county government temple for use in ceremonies to protect all local citizens.

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