Japanese Pillar Print (Hashira-e) of Samurai and Kabuki Actor | Kitao Masayoshi (Kuwagata Keisai) | Edo Period

Kitao Masayoshi, (1764-1824), also known as Kuwagata Keisai, was born in Edo, (old Tokyo), of a samurai family, and trained under the color-print master Kitao Shigemasa, an illustrator of books. Masayoshi worked as a painter and printmaker and is well known for his sketch books. In 1794 he was appointed painter-in-attendance to the Daimyo of Tsuyama. After three years, he was sent to study with Yosen-in Korenobu, leading painter of the Kano school. It was here that he was given the new name Kuwagata Keisai. At this time he was in charge of painting scrolls for Sadanobu. Later he became famous for teach-yourself art books. Keisai returned to printmaking when book publishing was again seen as an acceptable art form.

Being a book illustrator, Kitao Masayoshi used a wide variety of subjects in unbound works, and as illustrated in this pillar print (hashira-e) of a Samurai and Kabuki Actor categorized as musha-e (i.e., warriors/historical), print is a sumizuri-e, colored by hand, and signed by the artist. Being a pillar print, this piece does not appear to be from an album, and judging from the quality of printing must be from the first printing with the artist’s signature, when some prints were issued separately. This Hashira-e is in black and color ink on paper (black ink portion strong, color portion faded and toned), good impression and in good condition (small surface imperfection). Dimensions: 4-5/8” x 25-2/8”h.

NOTE: Pillar Prints, historically, suffer the most wear, particularly fading, and toning, due to the fact that they were hung like miniature scrolls, or pasted on a the central posts of the main room. All Hashira-e were subjected to harsh light and smoke, yet today are highly prized for their themes of myths and legend, historical figures, and narrow size, giving a unique perspective to the genre.

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