Kyōsai: The Israel Goldman Collection ★★★★★ Royal Academy | Mar 19 - Jun 19, 2022


To western eyes the Japanese aesthetic can sometimes seem refined to the point of incomprehensibility. With the work of Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889), we enter a world with recalling Hieronymus Bosch's phantasms, Brueghel's earthy peasants, Hogarth's satires and Beatrix Potter's animals. There is a lot here that may echo the familiar and provide a key into Kyōsai's imaginative environment, but when the door is opened, one meets a thoroughly original and utterly delightful artist. Kyōsai embraces life in all its aspects; terror, sexuality, buffoonery and whimsy are all on display. From the amazing Night Procession of One Hundred Demons (1871-1889), through the insightful portraits of his spiritual master, Daruma, to the fascinating commentary of Five Holy Men (1871-1887), the artist boldly and playfully examines humanity's spiritual aspirations while also scrutinising the joys and follies of this world. The exhibition is divided into three parts – From Tradition to Innovation, Laughing at Modernity, and The Artist meets his Public. Throughout there is an amazing skill and a craftsmanship informed by a wonderfully empathetic and humorous treatment of the subject matter. There is a free-flowing spirit in all of the pictorial narrations that are matched by a fluidity and mastery of technique which is a pleasure to behold. This well-curated exhibition is a fitting celebration of an artist whose engaging vision is as approachable as it is comprehensive.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Skeleton Shamisen Player in Top–Hat with Dancing Monster, 1871 - 78. Israel Goldman Collection, London Photo: Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University.

When, Where, Getting there:

Most Popular

Best of Enemies ★★★★★ Noël Coward Theatre | Until Feb 18, 2023

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton ★★★ The Pheasantry | January 13 &14, 2023

Salt-Water Moon ★★★★ Finborough Theatre | January 3 - 28, 2023

George Takei's Allegiance ★★★★ Charing Cross Theatre | Jan 7 - Apr 8, 2023

Magic Mike Live ★★★★ The Theatre at the Hippodrome Casino | Until December 29, 2021

The Ghosting of Rabbie Burns ★★ King's Head Theatre | January 3 - 14, 2023

Dinner With Groucho ★★ Arcola Theatre | Nov 16 - Dec 10, 2022

Newsies ★★★★ Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre | Until April 16, 2023

Love Goddess, The Rita Hayworth Musical ★★★ The Cockpit | Nov 18 - Dec 23, 2022

On The Ropes ★★★★ Park Theatre | Jan 7 - Feb 4, 2023

The City Life Magazine | Reviews & Ratings