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Kiyochika: Master of the Night

This self-taught artist became known as the "Master of the Night"...
This self-taught artist became known as the "Master of the Night"...
“Fireworks at Ike-no-Hata” by Kobayashi Kiyochika (Meiji era, 1881)

“Fireworks at Ike-no-Hata,” this woodblock print can be viewed in the exhibition of “Kiyochika: Master of the Night,” his 93 prints he had completed were unlike anything previously produced by a Japanese artist. March 29—July 27 at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

His approach of manipulating color within the night being used as a back drop to frame these different colors of light. He explored both man-made and natural lights, from dusk to dawn, and the subjects are various shades of gray and blue combined with fireworks and moonlight..

Equally amazing are his human figures. Many times they are silhouetted, they are at once together and alone observers, rather than actors , in an oddly quiet landscape as observers, rather than actors

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) was a minor soldier, who was a recently deposed Shogun (a Japanese military leader from the 19th century), who had followed his master into exile. When he finally returned to his birthplace, he found the city had been completely transformed.

Kiyochika set out to record his views of the new Tokyo. Originally, Tokyo was named Edo, which was the city of his birth in 1847. Edo was renamed Tokyo (Eastern Capital”) September 3, 1868.

The new Tokyo became an experiment in a national drive toward modernization. Tokyo was filled with railroads, steamships, gaslights, telegraph lines and large brick buildings … never before seen building materials on the Japanese islands.

It is not necessary to love Japanese art in order to appreciate the excellent quality this self-taught artist displayed in his woodcuts in all of his night scenes of 19th century Toyko. Therefore, do not miss this amazing exhibit.

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