Elephants print

Among the paintings in the RA exhibition is this colour woodblock print Famous from India: Elephants at Play 1863 by Kawanabe Kyōsai. Photo: Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University



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The exhibition Kyosai: The Israel Goldman Collection runs from March 19-June 19 at the Royal Academy of Arts and will focus largely on the art of sekiga, ‘spontaneous paintings’, produced at ‘calligraphy and painting parties’ (shogakai).

According to the RA, these pictures were often fuelled by prodigious amounts of sake and reveal a comical twist reflecting the artist’s take on society.

The artist was overlooked for many years and this exhibition is the first monographic exhibition of Kyosai’s work in the UK since 1993.

Demons scroll

Among the paintings in the RA exhibition is this hanging scroll of Shōki and Two Demons 1882 by Kawanabe Kyōsai. Photo: Ken Adlard.

The show will include around 80 works, many of which have never been exhibited or published, from the collection of Goldman, a dealer in Japanese prints, paintings and illustrated books.

Goldman has been collecting since the early 1980s when he bought his “first sleeper” for which he paid the “princely sum of £55 at a Phillips sale in London”.

He said: “I had just started to deal and was rather impoverished but couldn’t bear to part with the painting and it has been at the core of my collection ever since.”

He admitted that when he started collecting he tried to avoid competing with his clients by focusing on a single artist who was underappreciated at the time.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication written by Dr Sadamura Koto as well as a book on Kyōsai’s animal images, Kyōsai’s Animal Circus

Crows scroll painting

Among the paintings in the RA exhibition is this silk hanging scroll Two Crows with ‘Crow Gourd’ (karasu–uri), c.1884-9 by Kawanabe Kyōsai. Photo: Ken Adlard

Works belonging to Goldman have been the subject of a number of exhibitions over the years.

He sold a group of 103 block-ready drawings by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) to the British Museum in 2020. As reported in ATG (News Digest, Nos 2458 and 2459), Goldman had acquired the drawings when they were offered at a Piasa auction in 2019. He sold them to the museum for £270,000 with support from the Art Fund. This collection was exhibited last year.

He was also a major lender to the museum’s Kyosai exhibition, held in 1993, as well as a show in Tokyo in 2002 and 2017.

Goldman - also a guest curator at the last Japanese themed exhibition at the RA, Kuniyoshi in 2009 - said RA president Rebecca Salter saw the 2017 exhibition in Japan and they began discussing opportunities.

He added: “I always maintained good contact but seeing that exhibition encouraged Rebecca to ask whether I would consider having a Kyosai exhibition in London” and the idea of the show was formed.