Kamigata from a Utagawa Toyokuni (Edo native)’s point of view
March 1 (Tue), 2022 ‐ May 29 (Sun), 2022
This museum exhibits ukiyo-e woodblock prints produced in Osaka in the Edo period. Many of the ukiyo-e prints made in Osaka were portraits of kabuki actors performing on stage.
Kabuki in the Edo period developed in 2 big cities; Kamigata (present Osaka) and Edo (present Tokyo), the former was called Kamigata kabuki and the latter Edo kabuki. Each kabuki has unique characteristics in terms of boxing and performance. Edo kabuki is characterized by its dynamic ‘rough style’ performance while Kamigata kabuki is characterized by its soft ‘tender style’ performance. However, the two interacted with each other; kabuki actors based in Dotombori area in Kamigata performed at Nakamura-za theatre in Edo and ukiyo-e artists in Edo depicted them.
In this feature exhibition, we exhibit the portraits of Kamigata kabuki actors drawn by an Edo ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Toyokuni, focusing on how he described famous Dotombori kabuki actors such as Nakamura Utaemon III. In addition, we focus on how Osaka ukiyo-e artists depicted Edo kabuki actors performing in theatres in Dotombori area. Please enjoy comparing the difference of styles of the eastern and western artists.
Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825)
Born to a puppeteer in Shiba, Edo. Became a disciple of ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Toyoharu, founder of the Utagawa school. Toyoharu was famous for the ‘bijin-ga’ (beautiful person picture) and ‘uki-e’ (ukiyo-e that incorporated geometrical perspective). His disciple, Toyokuni, being influenced by the styles of Utamaro and Kiyonaga, began to draw illustrations. He became famous after his series of ukiyo-e paintings titled ‘Yakusha butai no sugata-e’ published in 1794 (Kansei 6) was successful.
Toshusai Sharaku lived in the same age, who drew nearly as many as 140 ukiyo-e paintings a year. While Sharaku’s portraits were dynamic and realistic, Toyokuni’s portraits were sophisticated and modern, the latter became far more popular among theatre goers. Many of Toyokuni’s portraits exhibited here were being made in the Bunka era. Though sometimes they are criticized by their mannerism, these portraits depict kabuki actors’ lively performances. Osaka ukiyo-e is said to be more ‘sticky’ compared to Utagawa school’s ‘dry’ style. Toyokuni’s Edo-style coolness and Osaka’s ‘sticky’ ukiyo-e make a good contrast.
Nakamura Utaemon III (1778-1838)
Natural son of Nakamura Utaemon I. First performance on stage was at the age of 10 with the name Kagaya Fukunosuke in 1778 (Tenmei 8). After his father Utaemon I (then the name Utashichi) died in 1791 (Kansei 3), he took over the name Utaemon. He was one of the greatest kabuki actors in Bunka and Bunsei eras (1804-1830) in Osaka. He played wide range of roles such as young adult male, female and dancer.
In 1808 (Bunka 5), for the first time he performed at Nakamura-za theatre in Edo, which was very successful. He went back and forth between Osaka and Edo three times, having great influence on Edo kabuki world. He was drawn by both east and west ukiyo-e artists.
Utaemon was said to be not-so-good-looking, but Toyokuni depicted Utaemon as built-up man with keen eyesight, like his co-star Bando Mitsugoro III.
Ichikawa Ebijuro I (1777-1827)
He became a disciple of a great actor Ichikawa Danzo IV, and first performed in 1789 (Kansei 1) with the name of Ichikawa Ichizo. After he gained experience at kodomo shibai theatres (kids act) and chu shibai theatres (intermediate level act), he performed at oh shibai theatres (high-level act) from around 1806 (Bunka 3). In 1809 (Bunka6) he was headed for Edo and became more famous. In 1815 (Bunka 12), he was introduced by Utaemon into the Ichikawa Danjuro school and was given the name Ebijuro. As he went back to Osaka along with Utaemon, he became very popular also in Osaka.
Toyokuni depicted Ebijuro as a sharp, stylish man in good shape. On the other hand, Osaka artists depicted him as a cool-eyed, built-up man. While Osaka portrait style is more ‘sticky’, with faces bigger and movement more exaggerated, Edo style is lighter and simpler.
Nakamura Matsue III (1786-1855)
After gaining experience at kodomo shibai theatres (kids act) by the name Ichikawa Kumataro, in 1812 (Bunka9), became a disciple of Nakamura Utaemon III and was given the name Nakamura Sanko. In 1813 (Bunka 10) he went to Edo and performed at the Nakamura-za theatre and succeeded the name Nakamura Matsue III. He became a popular kabuki actor in Edo but went back to Osaka in 1817 (Bunka 14). He went to Edo again in 1822 (Bunsei 5) and performed at the Nakamura-za theatre but went back to Osaka within a year.
In 1833 (Tempo 4), he succeeded the name Nakamura Tomijuro II, became the number one ‘onnagata’ actor (a kabuki actor who performs the role of a woman) in Osaka kabuki. At the time of Tempo Reform, he was expelled from Osaka because he violated the prohibition-of-luxury law and was based in Sakai, south of Osaka. In 1853 (Kaei 6), he again went to Edo and performed at Ichimura-za theatre.
Toyokuni depicted Matsue as a full-of-energy young man with cool and slanted eyes. On the other hand, Osaka artists emphasized Matsue’s almond-shaped eyes with double eyelids.
Bando Mitsugoro III (1775-1831)
Natural son of Bando Mitsugoro I. Succeeded the name in 1799 (Kansei 11). He is one of the most popular Edo kabuki actors in Bunka and Bunsei eras. Exceled at wide range of characters and developed a genre of ‘quick-change dance’. Utaemon III, who was also popular in Edo, was his rival, competing the number of role changes in one stage by ‘quick-change dance’.
Onoe Kikugoro III (1784-1849)
A disciple of Onoe Kikugoro I. Received the name Onoe Baiko III in 1814 (Bunka 11), and then Onoe Kikugoro III next year. He is one of the most popular Edo kabuki actors in Bunka and Bunsei eras. His good looking was said to have been generally accepted. ‘Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan’ which was first performed in Bunsei 8 was a big hit. It was also performed at the Kadono shibai theatre in Dotombori next year, making a big hit. In 1848 (Kaei 1), he came back on stage in Osaka under the name Okawa Hashizo.
Iwai Hanshiro V (1776-1847)
Natural son of Iwai Hanshiro IV. Succeeded the name Iwai Hanshiro V in 1801 (Bunka 1). He is one of the most popular Edo kabuki actors in Bunka and Bunsei eras. He was a popular ‘onnagata’ actor (an actor playing a role of a woman) in Edo, with his handsome figure and attractive facial expressions playing seven characters from a young girl to an old evil woman in a kabuki play ‘Osome Hisamatsu ukina no yomiuri’ In 1820 (Bunsei 3), he performed on stage in Osaka with Matsumoto Koshiro V and Bando Mitsugoro III.
Matsumoto Koshiro V (1764-1838)
Son of Matsumoto Koshiro IV, first stage appearance was in 1770 (Meiwa 7) under the name of Ichikawa Sumizo. He received the name of Ichikawa Komazo III in 1772 (Anei 1). Growing from child actor into adolescent actor, he became young adult male-role actor around Tenmei 3. After performing as wagoto actor (gentle style), he gradually got a reputation as a villain actor.
He received the name of Matsumoto Koshiro V in 1801 (Kyowa 1). He appeared in theatres in Osaka in 1820 (Bunsei 3), and in Bunsei 4 he played in‘Hagi wa sendai na wa Matsumoto’and‘Kyoshi Hanakawado’, performed in theatures in Dotombori and Kyoto. He came back to Osaka in 1830 (Tempo 1) and played the role of Ikyu in
‘Sukeroku yukarino Edo zakura’, in Kyoto and Osaka. He was popular not only in Edo but also in Kamigata (around Osaka area) kabuki.
Matsumoto Koshiro V had another name‘Hanataka (high nose) Koshiro’, the distinctive feature was deformed in ukiyo-e paintings. With that unique feature, he made a hit in the part of Niki Danjo in‘Meiboku sendai hagi’. He remained on stage after the age of 70, very old for those days, and in May Tempo 9, he fell during performing on stage and died.