Kiyochika: Master of the Night

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Editorial Review

By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, July 25, 2014

Japanese artist Kobayashi Kiyochika’s woodblock prints of Tokyo, 42 of which are on view at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, are filled with drama. Sometimes it’s obvious, as in the artist’s depictions of two fires that ravaged the rapidly modernizing city in 1881.

For the most part, however, the sense of drama in “Kiyochika: Master of the Night” is more subtle, conveyed through moonlight, fireworks, paper lanterns, fireflies or the glow of a gas lamp. In several images, there appears a silhouetted figure of a man in a Western--style hat ---- a stand--in for the artist (1847--1915). Kiyochika’s role as both actor and observer of change only heightens the works’ moody, atmospheric theatricality.

Art review: ‘Kiyochika: Master of the Night’

At the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, images of a Tokyo on the cusp of modernity.