Untitled Kabuki Print of Female Impersonator

Creator: KUNICHIKA, Japanese

Title: Untitled

Work Type: color woodcut

Material: ink on paper

Measurements: Image: 34 x 24 cm

Repository: Wetmore Print Collection, Art History Dept, Cummings Arts Center, Connecticut College, New London

Description: Kunichika’s colored woodcut print depicts a male actor impersonating a female. The figure takes up most of the foreground. Behind the figure, flowerings are blossoming on either side of the actor. Two architectural structures are also visible behind the impersonator. The main focal point of this print is the actor, as he stands in a unique pose. The color used highlights the figure. The background colors are more dull, contrasting the reds and rich blues used in the figure’s clothing. The florals around the figure are outlined in a bright green, which works to help give shape to the figure. The figure has one hand towards the temple of his head and the other crossing his chest. This pose looks like a fighting position and creates a feeling of intimidation. The facial expression of this impersonator also is very distinct. The head is tilted down, as well as the mouth, creating an angry facial expression. The stance and facial expression help to convey the gender of the figure. Traditional depictions of women there is a sense of softness, and the women are depicted to be beautiful. In contrast, the facial expression in this print is ugly and mean. The harshness of the figural expression and stance, makes this figure more masculine. The exaggerated facial expression is intentional so that the viewer would not question the gender of the figure and know that this was a male dressed to play a woman. Kunichika exaggerates these masculine qualities so that the figure does not lose its sense of masculinity. This print helps to showcase the characteristics of female and male figures. Even though the figure is impersonating a female, it is clear that the person is male from the harshness and meanness displayed in the face and pose of the character. 

Reference: https://library.artstor.org/#/asset/CONNASIAN_106310758428

Author: Maggie Linehan

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