Actor as Musashibo Benkei

YOSHITOSHI TSUKIOKA: Actor as Musashibo Benkei: News from the Kabuki-za, 1879

To appreciate how revolutionary this print is, one needs to know that the audience is seeing a climactic moment: the actor is milking this mie (a dramatic posture that includes facial expression and crossed eyes, held as long as is humanly possible) for all it is worth. Normally, in kubuki prints, the artist would give you a full facial view of the moment as performed by a star. Here, Yoshitoshi presents you with the audience reaction -- we don't even know who the actor is. I know of no other artist or print that dares shatter this convention so thoroughly. It is a brilliant composition, and the face of the man in the front row is priceless. And, if you have never seen a kabuki play, I have to testify, the mie is every bit as dramatic as that.

Larger image: 164K.
Yoshitoshi biography.

 

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