Kawanabe Kyosai
Kawanabe Kyosai

Kawanabe Kyosai, (1831-1889)

Fugen and Monju Bosatsu

two album leaves mounted as a hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk; each signed Seisei Kyosai with one artist's seal, Touiku, mid-late 19th century

painting: 3 1/2 by 3 5/8 in., 8.8 by 9.2 cm
overall: 54 3/8 by 13 in., 138 by 33 cm

Monju Bosatsu, seated on a blue shishi (Buddhist lion) is a Bodhisattva of Supreme Wisdom and Beautiful Splendor. Fugen Bosatsu, seated on a white elephant, is a Bodhisattva of Universal Goodness, Virtue, and Worthiness. In the Flower Garden Sutra (Kegon Kyo), the Buddha describes the Ten Great Vows made by Fugen Bosatsu in his path to enlightenment. While Monju Bosatsu is often represented and worshipped individually, Fugen Bosatsu rarely appears without Monju Bostsu or in a triad to the right of Shaka Nyorai (the historical Buddha).

Kawanabe Kyosai, the self-proclaimed "Demon of Painting," was one of the most dynamic and diverse traditional painters of 19th century Japan. As a child, Kyosai trained with the great ukiyo-e print artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi, but after two years switched to the Kano school of painting. He developed an individual style which incorporated both schools, as well as influences from the Nanga school of painting, and the popular kyoga (crazy pictures) depicting fanciful creatures and sometimes satirical caricatures.

Kyosai was celebrated in his own time for his artistry, but infamous for his drinking. While he was only nine years old when he earned his nickname Gaki (Demon of Painting) from his ability to produce spontaneous drawings at shogakai (calligraphy and painting parties for paying guests), the name became well-suited for a man who would drink two bottles of sake before commencing a painting. His self-indulgent nature brought him both a reputation and trouble. He insulted both the painter Kawabata Gyokusho and the print artist Toyohara Kunichika in two separate incidents, in the later case he brushed ink on the artist's face; and he was also imprisoned for several months in 1870 for an offensive depiction of foreigners in one of his drunken paintings.


Kawanabe Kyosai


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site last updated
December 1, 2022

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475