Resource: Tsukioka Kōgyo, 月岡耕漁 The Art of Noh, 1869-1927

When we think of woodblock prints, typically what comes to mind is early modern Japan, with its wealth of colorful kabuki prints and personalities. However, woodblock printing continued to be a rich and fascinating artistic practice long after, and kabuki theater was not the only performance at to be depicted throughout the centuries.

Outside of Japan, University of Pittsburgh holds the largest collection of Japanese color woodblock prints depicting noh theatre created by the artist Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927). These works have been researched, digitized, and displayed on their own website, Kōgyo: The Art of Noh. This archive comprises four sets of print publications, Nōgaku zue (Pictures of Noh), Nōga taikan (A Great Collection of Prints of Noh Plays), Nōgaku hyakuban (Prints of One Hundred Noh Plays), and Kyōgen gojūban (Fifty Kyōgen Plays), which were all published between 1897 and 1930.

The site contains contextual essays for each published work as well as a general biography essay on the artist and even a translation of an essay that Kōgyo wrote himself, published in 1914. One of the strengths of the site, in addition to its abundance of digitized sources that adorn each page, is that there are also sections on the physical appearance of the publications such as the style of the books, measurements of paper, or methods of binding. There’s even information on where one can find other editions of some of the prints in other museum collections, which is useful for scholars hoping to do comparative work. The contextualizing essays also include more general information on noh theatre (such as the categories of plays), so non-specialists will enjoy browsing through the collection as much as those on a mission.

This project is the product of years of collaborative work, and will be useful to students, researchers, and enthusiasts for learning more about the history of performance, art, and printing in the early twentieth century. I highly recommend giving it a look!

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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