Ann Arbor, MI
Kabuki actors were superstars in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Japan. They were admired by passionate fans with an insatiable appetite for images of them, fed by a publishing industry that mass-produced colorful woodblock prints of actors on stage that could be cheaply purchased as souvenirs of or substitutes for a theater experience. Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater from the Collection of the University of Michigan Museum of Art presents a selection of these dramatic prints that connected fans to their idols, including off- or backstage portrayals that satisfied fans’ voyeuristic curiosity about their favorite actors’ lives, fantasy scenes of actors in unlikely groupings, and even death portraits of especially famous actors. This introduction to the visual culture surrounding kabuki theater includes prints by major artists such as Utagawa Toyokuni (1769–1825), Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1865), Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861), and Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900).
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.