Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861, Japanese)

Five Cats, Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Five Cats
Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861, Japanese) was an Edo period master of ukiyo-e wood block print.  His depictions included landscapes, beautiful women (geishas), Kabuki actors, and cats. Influenced by ukiyo-e warrior prints, by age 12 he had impressed the ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Toyokuni and joined his studio in 1811. His first works were book illustrations and then he turned to warrior prints. Kuniyoshi was a popular teacher and Yoshitoshi, Yoshitora, Yoshijku, Yoshikazu, and Yoshifuji were among his students.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi was a great cat lover, and it was said that his studio was full of them. Often he could be seen working with a kitten snuggled up in his kimono. An apprentice, Yoshimune, reported that when one of Kuniyoshi’s cats died, he would have it sent to a nearby temple, and a Buddhist altar for his deceased cats was erected in his home. There he kept tablets with the cats’ Buddhist names on the altar.

Kuniyoshi’s love of his felines spilled over into his art. Cats fill many of his compositions and he even began to give Kabuki actors cat faces. Kuniyoshi’s Ume no haru gjusantsugi was performed in 1835. A cat has shape-shifted into an old woman while a cat wearing a napkin dances while a cat licks the lamp. The cloth on the cat’s head represents the folk belief that  cats would steal napkins and would dance together and howl “Neko ja!” (We are cats!). Cats often times licked Japanese lamps of the period because they were fueled with fish oil.

Be sure to visit The Great Cat Store for  a wide selection of Japanese prints with cats.

 

Utagawa Kuniyoshi Ume no haru gojusantsugi, 1835, PD A kabuki that was performed in 1835 (Tenpo 6) in Ichimura-za. It depicts a cat that has shapeshifted into an old woman, a

Ume no haru gojusanttsugi
1835

Several more similar depictions of the cat witch follow:

 

Cat Witch of Okabe - UTAGAWA KUNIYOSHI (2), cats in Japanese art

Cat Witch of Okabe

 


Utagawa Kuniyoshi - The actor Onoe Kikugorô III as the Cat-Witch

The actor
Onoe Kikugorô III as the Cat-Witch

 

Utagawa Kuniyoshi An Imaginary Scene of the Origin of the Cat Stone at Okazaki, from the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road

An Imaginary Scene of the Origin of the Cat Stone at Okazaki, from the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road

 

 

Utagawa Kuniyoshi also depicted cats in their every day activities as well as using them to design letters of the alphabet. 

 

A Cat Making Mice Fearful, by Kuniyoshi Utagawa, ca 1841

A Cat Making Mice Fearful, ca 1841

 

Cats, Utagawa Kuniyoshi

 

Detail Cats suggested as the fifty-three stations of the Tokaido

Detail
Cats suggested as the fifty-three stations of the Tokaido

 

 

Cat and Koi Pond by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Cat and Koi Pond

 

Cats Join to Form the Vocabulary of Fish Bonito' by Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

Cats Join to Form the Vocabulary of Fish Bonito

 

 

 

Koniyoshi also depicted the cat with priests and geishas (beautiful women). In the upper right-hand corner of the print below is the 9th  century monk Bukan with a tiger. The monk was known to have ridden a tiger to scare his followers. Here he is shown awakening from a nap, and in the foreground a woman and her cat are also awakening from a nap, perhaps mirroring the Zen priest’s powers. 

Zen Priest Bukan with cat from the series Sixteen Female Sennin Charming Creatures. Print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Zen Priest Bukan from the series Sixteen Female Sennin Charming Creatures

 

25 Chrysanthemums, Geisha and cat Utagawa Kuniyoshi

25 Chrysanthemums

 

Geisha and Cat Utagawa Koniyoshi

Geisha and Cat

 

 

Wanting to tweeze the nape of the neck (cats playing) ukiyo-e woodblock print, 1852 Ugatawa Kuniyoshi

Wanting to tweeze the nape of the neck (cats playing) ukiyo-e woodblock print, 1852

 

 

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, The third princess and cat

The Third Princess and Cat

 

Geisha Holding a Cat, Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Geisha Holding a Cat

 

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Geisha Spanking a Cat

Geisha Spanking a Cat Making off with a Fish

 


 

Kuniyoshi also depicted cats as people and as Kabuki actors.

 

 

Cats' cooling off on a boat) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Edo period

Cats’ cooling off on a boat

 

Cats Performing in the Michiyuki Scene in the play Neko yanagi sakari no tsukikage from the series Fashionable Cat Frolics Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Cats Performing in the Michiyuki Scene in the play Neko yanagi sakari no tsukikage from the series Fashionable Cat Frolics

Here a courtesan named Matsuyama and her lover Kyūbei are eloping. Items typically associated with cats such as gold coins and bells are on their kimonos, and clam shells and mackerel fillets take the place of willow flowers and their leaves. 

 

The Scene of Torture by Scolding from the play The Stinky Sleeve from the series Fashionable Cat Frolics. Print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

The Scene of Torture by Scolding from the play The Stinky Sleeve from the series Fashionable Cat Frolics

 

The series Fashionable Cat Frolics written by Santō Kyōzan is based on Kabuki play parodies and was illustrated by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Kyōzan not unlike Kuniyoshi was also a lover of cats. Due to mid-nineteenth century censorship,  paraodies such as this became popular. Actors’ and courtesans’ likenesses could not be shown, so to get around this, they were portrayed as cats. The above print is from the play The Stinky Sleeve, a tale about the Genji clan and Heike clan who fought one another during the Heian period. Here, a Genji clansman questions his lover Ayako concerning the Heike chieftain. 

 

Dancing Cats by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Dancing Cats

 

Fashionable Cat Juggler with a Ball - Kuniyoshi Utagawa

Fashionable Cat Juggler with a Ball

 

Fashionable Cats Juggling Balls ukiyō-e woodblock print, c. 1841, Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Fashionable Cats Juggling Balls
c. 1841

 

Utagawa Kuniyoshi cats

 

 

Cat lady, Octopus. Ukiyo-e. Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Cat Lady and Octopus

 

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Two Bakenekos

Two Bakenekos

RATS ESCAPE FROM CAT ON THE NIGHT OF LUCKY DAY KUNIYOSHI UTAGAWA 1798-1861

Rats Escape from Cat

 

Giant Snow Cat - Kuniyoshi Utagawa 1797-1861

Giant Snow Cat


 

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Laura Vocelle