Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Killer in the Rain, or What's your favorite crime art?

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, "Shirai Gonpachi," from
The Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kisokaido Road,
1852, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Today's offering comes from the printmaker Kuniyoshi's series depicting the post stations, or rest stops, on the inland Kisokaido road between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto.

Such series were a favorite of Japanese printmakers, depicting natural sights and vignettes of human activity. This example incorporates an earlier favorite Japanese genre, the actor print (yakusha-e or, if you prefer, 役者絵). An excerpt from Sarah E. Thompson's description of the scene in her book about the series will explain why it belongs here:
"In both real life and drama, Gonpachi's criminal career began in his home province of Tottori, where he killed a man named Honjo Sukedayu ... This print shows the moment just after the killing, when Gonpachi emerges from Honjo's house into the rain. An umbrella and a rain clog (with a cover to keep the foot dry) can be seen on the ground beside him; the umbrella and swords also appear in the series title border [upper right]."
That could be a scene from a crime novel. What is your favorite art (painting, print, drawing, or sculpture) that hits you like  crime fiction does? Links to visual examples welcome. Here's one from yesterday's Detectives Beyond Borders post.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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17 Comments:

Blogger Julie said...

Thanks Peter. I just spent 25 minutes looking at all of Kuniyoshi's "The Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kisokaido Road" prints. Fantastic! I haven't heard of Gonpachi, but I have always admired actor prints in Ukiyo-e.

I recently started collecting Hiroaki Takahashi (Shotei) prints. His work was from a later period with a more modern flavor (1920's-45). Sadly he visited his daughter in Hiroshima in the summer of '45...

I love the calm scene in the upper lefthand corner. It balances out the alarming scene of the main subject perhaps?

August 10, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Takahashi reminds me a bit of Manet or Pissarro: A bucolic scene in the foreground, a factory or skyscrapers in the background just so the viewer doesn't get too dreamy.

Have you been to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston? Its collection of Japanese prints is outstanding, and odds are good that many of the prints illustrated in any books on Japanese prints you should happen to browse come from there.

Works on paper rotate in and out of view frequently because of their sensitivity to light. One benefit is that one is apt to see something different each visit. This week, for example, one gallery exhibited Japanese "luxury prints." I had never known such things existed. I had thought woodblock prints were all cheap commercial productions, looked down on by the collecting classes in Japan and valued first in the West and only later at home.

The upshot: You should visit Boston.

August 10, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not seen that device of the inset landscape before, but I discovered that Hiroshige used a similar technique in at least one of his own series. It's a great way to pack more meaning and visual interest into one handy, low-priced, multilayered package.

August 10, 2013  
Blogger Dave Whish-Wilson said...

When living in Tokyo I found watching butoh performances (late at night, often in some dingy semi-industrial hall) were by turns as visceral and blunt, or elegant and affecting as good crime fiction. And perhaps it's the comic-loving kid still in me, but I keep going back to look at Frans Masereel's The City - http://newpartisan.com/images/masereel/

August 11, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dave, I bought Masereel's Passionate Journey on your say-so some time back. I made the mistake of buying it on a Kindle, but even the small size, debased image quality, and lack of reader control could not entirely dull the effect. I would love to see some Masereel in a real book.

August 11, 2013  
Blogger Julie said...

Peter, I wonder if we are talking about the same artist? The Takahashi Hiroaki that I am speaking of doesn't have a factory or sky scrapers in the work. Here is a good example of his art:

http://www.ohmigallery.com/DB/ItemDetail.asp?item=10757

The big excitement about his work is that he was well respected and his works collected before the great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Much of his work was destroyed. But he recreated a lot of it and it was catalogued by Watanabe post earthquake. Then, as I said, his post earthquake work came to an end with Hiroshima. Pre earthquake is coveted, but I like his post earthquake work just as well.

I didn't know about the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A good motivation to visit indeed!

August 12, 2013  
Blogger Julie said...

Thanks Peter, but I wonder if we are speaking about the same artist? Here is a fine example of his work:

http://www.ohmigallery.com/DB/ItemDetail.asp?item=10757

Not a sky scraper or factory to be seen in any of his works as far as I know...

I didn't know about the Japanese collection at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. A good motivation to visit indeed!

(This may get posted twice, the first time I tried, it just disappeared.)

August 12, 2013  
Blogger Julie said...

Thanks Peter, but I wonder if we are speaking about the same artist? Here is a fine example of his work:

http://www.ohmigallery.com/DB/ItemDetail.asp?item=10757

Not a sky scraper or factory to be seen in any of his works as far as I know...

I didn't know about the Japanese collection at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. A good motivation to visit indeed!

(This may get posted twice, the first time I tried, it just disappeared.)

August 12, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

We could wellbe talking about different printmakers. Perhaps I inadvertently hit a link that led me to a different artist. I will keep looking for that one that I found.

Meanwhile, I see that the Wikipedia entry about your Takahashi links for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

August 12, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nope, I can’t find the print I thought I remembered on this list. But I did learn that the artist was also known as Shotei, and that there are several versions of how he died – one of which says that he was visiting his daughter in Hiroshima in 1945. Whatever image I saw, I suppose I could have mistaken a tree or a distant pagoda-like building for a skyscraper. Or maybe I automatically thought: Aha, Japan!, twentieth century, conflict between modernity and tradition, started seeing skyscrapers where none existed.

August 13, 2013  
Blogger Julie said...

Oh, well I can't claim to know all of his works, perhaps near the end of his life he, like Kurosawa did at about the same time period, had something to say about post-war Americanism and the modernization of the country. I am new at this so perhaps you found the later works...at any rate it looks like I will eventually need to get to Boston! (it's cheaper than going to Japan.)

August 13, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My favorite setpieces in Kurosawa's movies are those of rural/urban domestic life in postwar Tokyo in Stray Dog. And, skyscrapers or not, Takahashi Hiroaki's prints look familar and different at the same time: harsher contrasts of color, or more grays than the nineteenth-century printmakers familiar to casual viewers like me. An interesting artist, he seems to have been.

August 13, 2013  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

I like Walter Sickert's The Camden Town Murder, which I was lucky to see when it was in D.C. I appreciate that the male is some sort of emotional state (Is he planning? Or is that regret?), and that I'm unsure whether this takes place before or after the killing.

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/images/research/595_10.jpg

August 15, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And those patches of red around the man's hands and the woman's face and left hand are no doubt meant to get the viewer wondering. Thanks for posting that. Sickert has also been more closely associated with killings than has just about any other painter this side of Carravaggio.

August 15, 2013  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Arg! Don't get me started. He's no more a legitimate Ripper suspect than I am, starting with the fact that he was in France at the time. (Here's the part where I reveal that my interest in Victorian crime is such that I hosted one of the international Jack the Ripper conferences.)

August 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sure, he arranged to be conveniently in France at the time and to have everyone know it. He made sure he was alibied up his yeux. Guys like him never do the crimes themselves; a painter that big would never dirty his hands with anything but pigments and turpentine. But you can be sure he ordered the killings. (Here's the part where I reveal that my interest in crime fiction is such that I know all the cliches about the big mob boss or political figure implicated in murder.)

August 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not known you were such an international Ripperhead. I shall have to ask you about this some time.

August 16, 2013  

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