Saturday, March 20, 2010

Utagawa Kuniyoshi

In the museum in Toronto yesterday, I saw a fascinating work (left). It depicted a face by using bodies and depicted hands by using legs and feet. Obviously, this reminded me of Arcimboldo, who composed faces of many different things -- fruit, books, animals... The image was part of a depiction of the earthquake in Tokyo in 1855. The work, according to the label, is from an album of prints made by anonymous artists just after the quake, and depicts a carpenter with the tools of his trade shown on his kimono; in his hand is gold, suggesting that he was profiteering (I think). The image composed of faces is said to be directly influenced by by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861).

I found the original image of a man composed of human forms in an article about Kuniyoshi, "one of the great masters of the 'floating world,' or Ukiyo-e, school of Japanese art." The author says: "One of the most intriguing aspects of Kuniyoshi’s creative personality was his openness to ideas from the West. ... 'He Looks Fierce But He’s a Really Great Guy' [here, right] shows a grotesque human face formed from an assemblage of naked male bodies, which is uncannily close to the works of the sixteenth-century Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo. There is no actual proof that Kuniyoshi knew Arcimboldo’s work."


Jens Zorn said...

shows a photograph by Phillipe Halsman in which Salvador Dali contemplates the figure of a skull made from a Pilobolus-like concatenation of nudes.

Jeanie said...

What a fascinating comparison. Thanks!