Kawanabe Kyosai, the “demon of painting,” was an artistic genius active in a great variety of fields. For many years, assessments of his oeuvre focused on his caricatures and his paintings of ghosts, demons, and other fey creatures. Recent research, however, has been revealing how, based on the brushwork techniques he carried on from the Surugadai branch of the Kano school and his highly individual sensibility, Kyosai expanded his range of activities. This exhibition will explore Kyosai’s achievements as he opened up his own path in the chaotic years at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate and launch of the Meiji Restoration. In doing so, it will also highlight Kyosai’s artistic activities, particularly his engagement in ardent conversations with his predecessors’ works.


Kawanabe Kyosai: Nothing Escaped His Brush

February 6 to March 31, 2019

*There will be an exhibition change during the course of exhibition
*Download the list of changes in works on display

Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-89) was born in 1831 in Koga in the province of Shimousa (now Koga, Ibaraki prefecture). When he was two-years old in the East Asian age reckoning (kazoe-doshi), his family moved to Edo.* At the age of seven, he began studying painting with the ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi. He later studied with Maemura Towa (?-1841) of the Surugadai Kano school and then with Towa’s own teacher, Kano Tohaku Norinobu (?-1851). He took the art name “Kyosai” (“crazy studio”) upon becoming independent as an artist and won renown for his giga (comic pictures) and other works. In 1870, however, at the age of 40, he was imprisoned for creating a caricature, at a gathering of painters and calligraphers. It is said that the caricature insulted exalted, powerful men. He then changed the first character of his art name so that, while still pronounced “Kyosai,” it meant“enlightened studio.”
That incident and his satirical paintings making fun of the Meiji government contributed to Kyosai’s image as a rebellious, defiant spirit. It is not difficult to image that Kyosai, who was 38 when the Meiji Restoration occurred, had mixed feelings about the new government and the rapid pace of modernization it promoted, along with the other residents of the capital. What underlay his criticism and satire was not strong opposition to the new government as such, however. Rather, it was fueled by his affection for Edo culture.
The Kano school declined after the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate, but Kyosai proudly regarded himself as a Kano-school artist throughout his life. Kyosai’s sophisticated painting techniques and his deep understanding of traditional imagery were supported by Kano-school dedication to constant practice and the study of classic paintings as the foundations for an artist’s work. The paintings of Kannon, which he produced daily late in his life, and his careful copies of his predecessors’ work, speak to Kyosai’s sincerity and passion for art.
This exhibition commemorates the 130th anniversary of Kyosai’s death. It has two major foci: his work as a “Kano-school painter” and his innovative exploration based on the study of classical paintings during the tumultuous closing years of the Tokugawa shogunate and the launch of the new Meiji government.

* In the East Asian age reckoning system, the age count starts at one instead of zero at the moment of birth, and a year is added on each New Year’s Day.


February 6 to March 31, 2019

*There will be an exhibition change during the course of exhibition
*Download the list of changes in works on display


10:00-18:00 *Friday and Saturday 10:00-20:00

*Open until 20:00 on February 10 and March 20
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing



*Open until 18:00 on March 26
*shop×cafe will be open daily during a period of an exhibition.

Adult General ¥1,300 Advance ¥1,100
College and High School Student General ¥1,000 Advance ¥800

Elementary, junior high school students and under are free.
*With a certificate of disability, the admission fee of a disabled person and a care-giver will be waived.
*Advance tickets will be available at the museum reception desk during opening hours from November 28 to January 20, 2019.


◇100 Yen Discount
•For presenting a coupon downloaded from our website
•For displaying a coupon on your smartphone
•For presenting a ticket to a thematic exhibition at the National Art Center, Tokyo, or Mori Art Museum
•For parties of 20 or more

*Only one discount per person

Audio Guide

¥550 (English Available)

Organized by

Suntory Museum of Art, Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum, The Asahi Shimbun Company

Sponsored by

Mitsui Fudosan Co.,Ltd, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co.,Ltd, Suntory Holdings Limited

With the cooperation of

Japan Airlines Co.,Ltd.