September 2009

Keisai Eisen: Seven Paintings

September 15–19, 2009

Sebastian Izzard LLC presented Keisai Eisen: Seven Paintings, an exhibition focused on the art of this Ukiyo-e School artist who dominated the market for beauty prints and paintings in the second through fourth decades of the 19th century.

Eisen, the son of a samurai, made his way in the demi-monde of Edo (present-day Tokyo) as a writer, painter, and print maker. His work provides a vivid picture of the world of fashion, style, and pleasurable pursuits in the last decades of pre-industrial Japan.

The seven paintings presented in this exhibition are luxury works of art commissioned by a limited clientele, in which expensive pigments such as malachite, azurite, and cinnabar red are employed. Eisen’s subjects are mostly women from the entertainment quarters of Edo and the exhibition featured three depictions of courtesans and three of geisha or professional entertainers. The seventh painting was an extremely rare portrait of an actor. In addition to the paintings, several prints and illustrated books by Eisen were included in the show. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanied the exhibition and discusses the artist and his milieu in depth.