GYOSAI, Kawanabe. Gyosai Gadan. Two parts in 4 volumes. Xylographically printed and illustrated throughout, including many double-page woodcut illustrations. 4to., 178 x 257 mm, bound in original woodblock wrappers with paper labels, sewn Japanese-style, together in original blue chitsu box with coloured woodblock label on front cover. [Tokyo]: Iwamoto Shun, 1887.
First Edition of Gyosai's painting manual and biography. Kawanabe Gyosai (Kyosai, 1831-1889) is considered the first political caricaturist of Japan -- "a Japanese Phil May" -- and "the greatest of the Meiji artists published in book form" (Hillier). A student of Kuniyoshi and later Kano Tohaku, Gyosai developed his own virtuosic style that earned him recognition as one of the three greatest Japanese sketch artists, along with Hokusai and Itcho.
"The Life in Art of Gyosai" is heavily illustrated with woodblock prints of finished and draft drawings in colour and black and white, offering a rare glimpse of artworks in progress. In addition to his own illustrations, Gyosai examines the work of fellow masters, imitating their styles in sketches of human anatomy, faces, animals, battles, and crowded scenes, many with captions, partly in (imperfect) English, to guide the reader.
While the first part of the Gyosai Gadan is devoted to art history, the second is a biographical account, possibly "the first Japanese biography of a Japanese artist" (Hillier, quoting Scott Johnson), written by one of Gyosai's students, Baitei Gaso, and illustrated with autobiographical sketches by Gyosai. Gyosai must have been well known to Western contemporaries, as well, since two accounts of his life and work were published by Emile Guimet (Promenades Japonaises, 1881) and Josiah Conder (Paintings and Studies by Kawanabe Kyosai, 1911), a British architect who actually studied painting with Gyosai. An excellent survey of Japanese art history, illustrated by a master for whom an entire museum was founded in 1977.
Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book (1987), pp. 938-9, 942-5. Toda, Descriptive Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Illustrated Books (2004), 310.
Item nr. 151893