MUSHA-E ("warrior pictures”) constitute one of the major and most dynamic sub-genres of ukiyo-e, the populist art of 19th century Japan. From Hokusai to Kyosai, virtually all of ukiyo-e's greatest artists created musha-e, in particular Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi. It was Kuniyoshi who, inspired by the likes of Hokusai, Kunisada and Toyokuni, popularized the warrior print with his series 108 Suikoden Heroes in 1827. In his wake came Yoshitora, Yoshikazu, Yoshitsuya, Yoshiiku, Kuniteru, Kunichika, Toyonobu, Nobukazu, and many other classic artists, forming a body of dazzling, often bloody works which span the 19th century. "The Savage Samurai" presents 300 rare and exceptional Japanese warrior prints, presented in full-page format and full colour throughout. These pictures are collected in the same volume for the first time ever, forming a definitive introduction to ukiyo-e's most visually arresting and exciting sub-genre. The Ukiyo-e Master Series: presenting seminal collections of art by the greatest print-designers and painters of Edo-period and Meiji-period Japan.
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Jack Hunter is author and editor of over 20 books on cinema, including EROS IN HELL and MOONCHILD, as well as the counter-culture classics FREAK BABYLON and CHAPEL OF GORE AND PSYCHOSIS. After the publication of his ukiyo-e study DREAM SPECTRES (2010), he has mainly devoted his time to developing the Ukiyo-e Master Series.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
1. INTRODUCTION The origins of musha-e ("warrior pictures”) as a ukiyo-e genre can be traced back to painted screens and woodblock-printed books of the mid-17th century onwards, depicting warriors and heroes from Japanese legend or history such as the Soga Brothers, Minamoto no Yorimitsu (aka Raiko), or scenes from the Heike Monogatari. In the early 18th century, artists such as Torii Kiyomasu and Okumura Masanobu began to produce crude single-sheet woodblock prints depicting samurai. Later artists of the Torii school, including Kiyotada, Kiyoshige I, and Kiyomasu II continued to develop this primitive form of musha-e until 1765 saw the first introduction of full-colour woodblock printing, a landmark development in the genre. Notable musha-e artists of the period from 1765 until 1800 included Suzuki Harunobu, Kitao Shigemasa, Kitao Masayoshi, and Eishosai Choki. Also of vital importance were several artists of the Katsukawa school, starting with Katsukawa Shunsho who is credited as being the first artist to produce musha-e in triptych form, which would become the standard for depicting battle scenes in the following century. Katsukawa Shun'ei and Katsukawa Shunzan also contributed to the genre's progression during this fin-de-siècle period, while another key artist who became active during the 1790s was Katsushika Hokusai, a pupil of Katsukawa Shunsho who would go on to become one of the greatest of all ukiyo-e designers. Musha-e began to reach new popularity with the first illustrated editions of the Suikoden. The Suikoden was the Japanese version of a classic Chinese novel, Shuihu Zhuan ("Marsh Outlaws”), first published in the 14th century, which glamourized the exploits of 108 swamp-dwelling bandits who stood for justice and defied authority. It was first translated into Japanese around 1760. In 1806, an illustrated edition of the novel appeared with black-and-white images by Hokusai; Hokusai's drawings brought the text vividly to life and can be seen as greatly influential on later designs by Kuniyoshi. Hokusai illustrated further Suikoden volumes in 1827-29, and around 1835 produced an extraordinary 5-print series of warriors in combat. Two other artists who rose to prominence during the early 1800s, and contributed greatly to the musha-e genre, were Katsukawa Shuntei and Utagawa Toyokuni I, both of whom helped to develop the triptych as a dynamic musha-e format. They were followed by others like Keisai Eisen, Katsukawa Shunko, Utagawa Kuniyasu ....
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