Splendor of the Procession of General Grant from America (Beikoku Guranto-shi go tsūkō no han'ei)

Toyohara Kunichika Japanese

Not on view

This print was commissioned to commemorate the former American president's visit to Tokyo (Edo was renamed Tokyo when the emperor made it his residence in 1868) and his attendance at a Kabuki performance. Like many prints executed during the Meiji era, this one acted as a type of Japanese photojournalism. As such, the speed with which it was executed and the number of copies made are partly responsible for the general decline in quality most noticeable in the color registration and uneven paint application. The setting of the print can be identified as Tokyo's new Western-style Main Street located in the Ginza district and designed by the English architect Thomas Waters. In their choice of setting, Kunichika and Kunisada III consciously celebrate the advent of modernism in Japan. Likewise, the artists made a bold statement of the Meiji era's strong nationalistic sentiment by the repetition of Japan's newly adopted flag and by the rhythms created by the pattern of the flags' brillian red centers. The bold silhouettes of hte seven Kabuki actors, one of whom wears a Western bowler hat, dominate the print as they watch Grant's silhouetted procession. According to Julia Meech, the dramatic emphasis of the actors' silhouettes recalls the tradition of Japanese shadow theater, a premise strengthened by the hand gestures made by four group members.

Splendor of the Procession of General Grant from America (Beikoku Guranto-shi go tsūkō no han'ei), Toyohara Kunichika (Japanese, 1835–1900), Triptych of woodblock prints; ink and color on paper, Japan

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