Kobayashi Kiyochika Fukagawa Susaki in Tokyo

Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1847-1915

Kiyochika Punch: Fukagawa Susaki in Tokyo
(Kiyochika ponchi: Tokyo Fukugawa Susaki)

signed discreetly at lower right, Kobayashi Kiyochika hitsu, with artist and publisher details of Kobayashi Tetsujiro, ca. 1881

oban tate-e 14 1/4 by 9 5/8 in., 36.3 by 24.5 cm

In 1881 (the year of the great fire on January 26th), Kiyochika turned his attention away from producing landscape prints and focused his energies on comic and historical subjects. This series, Kiyochika Punch, was modeled after the English-language satirical journal established by Charles Wirgman in Yokohama in 1862. Kobayashi Tetsujiro published Kiyochika's version, with only eleven designs known, one of which is dated 1881. Each print features the series title and the print title (which is a place name) on a banner across the top of the composition. This print is located in Susaki, a strip of land in Tokyo Bay in the Fukagawa area east of the Sumida River which was a prime spot for gathering shellfish at low tide. In this case, the large octopus is a reference to a political figure, Kuroda Kiyotaka, a pun on kuko-tako (lit. 'black octopus'), an army general at the center of a scheme to sell off land to his associates at bargain prices.

References:
Henry D. Smith II, Kiyo-Chika: Artist of Meiji Japan, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 59, no. 64
Exhibition of Kobayashi Kiyochika, Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, 1998, p. 65, no. 82
Kobayashi Kiyochika: A Retrospective, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2016, p. 105, no. 158
Edo Tokyo Museum, acquisition no. 91210364
(inv. no. C-1498)

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