1 year ago
Bashford Dean (October 28, 1867 – December 6, 1928) was an American zoologist, specializing in ichthyology, and at the same time an expert in medieval armor. He is the only person to have held concurrent positions at the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he was Honorary Curator of Arms and Armor; the Metropolitan Museum purchased his collection of arms and armor after his death, which his friend Daniel Chester French commemorated with a plaque.

Bashford Dean (October 28, 1867 – December 6, 1928) was an American zoologist, specializing in ichthyology, and at the same time an expert in medieval armor. He is the only person to have held concurrent positions at the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he was Honorary Curator of Arms and Armor; the Metropolitan Museum purchased his collection of arms and armor after his death, which his friend Daniel Chester French commemorated with a plaque.

1 year ago
1 year ago
1 year ago

"Last Stand of the Kusunoki Heroes at Shijo-Nawate" by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

What shocks us at first is its vivid feeling of nowness and contemporaneity. It feels hectic, noisy, pullulating with heady violence. Its essential visual rhythms enthral us: that back-and-forth pushing of the three warriors as they fight back against what seem to be near-impossible odds. See how the arrows of the unseen enemies teem leftward in great, swooping, clattering droves as the three pale-faced-almost-unto-death warriors – stare into the ghastly blue pallor of their mask-like faces – push rightward in an ever-more desperate effort to gain ground… Their burdens seem near impossible. The warrior in the vanguard of the three, Wada Shinbei Masatomo, is carrying a couple of decapitated heads – the one we can see so clearly is grinning even in death – swinging them out in front of him in a gesture of defiance. Their leader, Kusunoki Masatsura, the last of the three, pausing momentarily to lean against the corpse of a horse, is labouring under the weight of a dead body sprawled across his back, which may be that of his fallen younger brother. That corpse helps to shield him from the mighty, unstoppable spray of arrows. The central figure is driving forward beneath the inadequate protection of a woefully collapsing battle standard. Only the leader for the day forges ahead, eyes in a kind of trance-like engagement with those of the enemy, as he shakes those heads like a brandished fist. This vivid evocation of a medieval battle – which can be dated very precisely to the year 1348 – almost smacks you in the face. Its cluttered liveliness, its pell-mell fury, its violently raucous disorder, is exhilarating to scrutinise in all its gorgeous decorative intricacy.

Can it really be the year 1851 when this print was made? There is a shocking immediacy about it. We feel that it belongs as much to our culture as to theirs, to these times as to those. We have been plunged into a world of superheroes of the present tricked out in the gorgeous apparel of times past – the warring samurai of ancient Japan. Can that be said of any image painted in England in that year? Here is just one taster of that year. Think back to what was made by William Holman Hunt in 1851: The Light of the World, in which a maudlin Victorian Jesus knocks on the door, lantern in hand, pious gaze looking beseechingly back at us, waiting to be admitted. Hunt’s painting draws us back into a world of near-ossified religiosity which seems so culturally remote from us.

Not so Kuniyoshi, for all that he lived more than half a world away. Why does this image seem so vividly alive in the present though? In part, this is not too difficult to explain. The works of the enormously popular printmaker Kuniyoshi – and they had run into thousands of images by the year of his death – fed into manga comics and much else. You could say that so much of what he made formed a part of the great legacy of what developed, closer to our times, into popular cartooning. Such images as these have dispersed – like these shooting arrows – throughout popular culture. They are in the air everywhere. They have also dispersed into such worlds as video-gaming. Even now such a battle scene as this one may be unfolding in your basement. Having said that, popular cartoonists seldom bless us with such fineness of detail. For all that, there is the same spirit of brash and colourful adventure, and the same ferociously simple message: kill or be killed.

Why was Kuniyoshi making such images at this time? This is one of many images he created of valiant battles against terrible odds, fought against human beings of other clans, giant carp or grisly spectres. Japan itself – as a country, as a nation, as a preciously bejewelled fragment of cultural identity – was under threat as never before. Its centuries of proud isolation had been breached. Enemies – from Europe and elsewhere – were circling, battering at the gates. This image, you might say, was one of many popular attempts to reassert a proud identity which was currently under threat.

This is the majestic few – the three musketeers, you might say – against the unseen hordes from without. What better way of stiffening the backbone of resolve than to remind his fellow Japanese of their great warrior heritage, to re-establish historic continuities?

1 year ago
Ghost Dog encounters Samurai in Camouflage
1 year ago
"Miyamoto Musashi and the Whale" by Kuniyoshi
Illustrates an heroic exploit of the legendary samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi (1582-1645), who, according to inscription on the print, “was a native of Higo Province and served under the daimyo [lord] of Buzen Province. Later he went about the country practicing swordsmanship. One day he met a huge whale in the ocean, and by putting his sword through the back of the creature, he killed it.”

"Miyamoto Musashi and the Whale" by Kuniyoshi

Illustrates an heroic exploit of the legendary samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi (1582-1645), who, according to inscription on the print, “was a native of Higo Province and served under the daimyo [lord] of Buzen Province. Later he went about the country practicing swordsmanship. One day he met a huge whale in the ocean, and by putting his sword through the back of the creature, he killed it.”

2 years ago
Of all the swordsmen of Japan, Miyamoto Musashi is probably the one who has caught the imagination most strongly: the subject of plays, novels, non-fiction, several TV series and movies, and of course his own writing continues to sell well to this day.

And, like many figures from the past, our knowledge of Musashi is colored by these many fictional renditions of the character. While western audiences often dwell on the violence of his life, impressed by his record of victories in duels, the Japanese view is more nuanced, and tends to take personal development as its major theme. The most famous example of this approach is the novel Musashi by Yoshikawa Eiji, originally released in serialised form in the 1930s. Musashi is depicted as a young man looking to develop his skills to become the strongest swordsman in the country. The depiction shows a driven, single-minded, yet chivalrous character, who grows as he learns from the pain and sacrifices involved in the pursuit of his dream. His childhood friend, Matahachi acts as a foil to Musashi – a kind of everyman who follows his whims, doesn’t have the strength of character to suffer for his dreams, and tries to achieve success without achievement. The contrast between the two is clear, though many will see as much of Matahachi in themselves as Musashi. (via)
Vagabond
Of all the swordsmen of Japan, Miyamoto Musashi is probably the one who has caught the imagination most strongly: the subject of plays, novels, non-fiction, several TV series and movies, and of course his own writing continues to sell well to this day.
And, like many figures from the past, our knowledge of Musashi is colored by these many fictional renditions of the character. While western audiences often dwell on the violence of his life, impressed by his record of victories in duels, the Japanese view is more nuanced, and tends to take personal development as its major theme. The most famous example of this approach is the novel Musashi by Yoshikawa Eiji, originally released in serialised form in the 1930s. Musashi is depicted as a young man looking to develop his skills to become the strongest swordsman in the country. The depiction shows a driven, single-minded, yet chivalrous character, who grows as he learns from the pain and sacrifices involved in the pursuit of his dream. His childhood friend, Matahachi acts as a foil to Musashi – a kind of everyman who follows his whims, doesn’t have the strength of character to suffer for his dreams, and tries to achieve success without achievement. The contrast between the two is clear, though many will see as much of Matahachi in themselves as Musashi. (via)
2 years ago
Part of a print series produced by babycrow for Tokyo Fixed at the Hyper Japan event in the Olympia. It is inspired from Japanese ukiyo-e prints and he went with a Risograph printing process to create a similar woodblock effect. The Samurai is riding a track frame based on the legendary Japanese frame builder Nagasawa.

Part of a print series produced by babycrow for Tokyo Fixed at the Hyper Japan event in the Olympia. It is inspired from Japanese ukiyo-e prints and he went with a Risograph printing process to create a similar woodblock effect. The Samurai is riding a track frame based on the legendary Japanese frame builder Nagasawa.

2 years ago
3 years ago
13 Assassins

13 Assassins