2023 Author: Alex Livingston | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 11:39
Utagawa Kuniyoshi was a Japanese painter and draftsman who is part of the ukiyoe artistic current. Among the various representations and to stem the increasingly advanced censorship, he decided to "entrust" to cat figure, the task of conveying his thoughts.
In this article we want to introduce you to the inspiration and creativity of a Japanese nineteenth-century master, the visionary Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Born in 1798 and died in 1861 in Edo, present-day Tokyo, Kuniyoshi is considered one of the most prominent masters of the artistic current of ukiyoe.
The term Ukiyoe (images of the floating world), was coined to express a new conception of life; or a fleeting life that must be lived fully enjoying the pleasures that life offers. And it is precisely in this new vision of life that the master Kuniyoshi realizes his most wonderful works and significant ones that have the figure of the cat as their theme.
Master Kuniyoshi was particularly fond of cats and used to paint surrounded by his cats. From the testimonies of his students it was possible to understand that he did not hesitate to erect an altar inside his home in which there were tablets with the names of the deceased cats. Altars equal to those that are usually erected in the Buddhist tradition to pay homage to family members who are no longer there.
Returning to his works, you should know that precisely in the period in which Kuniyoshi lived, the authorities had issued laws that were going to damage the new concept of life that was making its way especially in the merchant class, which had opened up to foreign markets. All those possible objects, representations or prints that flaunted luxury and put on were banned the morality of being is in danger. But not only! the inhabitants of Edo could not wear too elaborate and colorful kimonos, only certain types of colors were allowed to be used in the prints and above all two cornerstones of the Ukiyoe style were no longer to be represented: the geisha and the actors of the kabuki theater. Characters deriving from mythology were also admitted.
Many prints of the ukiyoe current were thus censored and banned. To remedy this, Kuniyoshi thought of a particular stratagem. All the characters who could no longer be represented in the prints, due to the new laws and censorship, were impersonated by the cats. Cats were therefore the real protagonists of satirical prints that embodied the vices and pleasures of society.
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