Kiyochika: Master of the Night

City View

Explore Tokyo and London as seen by Kiyochika and Whistler in the nineteenth century.

On September 3, 1868, the city of Edo ceased to exist. Renamed Tokyo (Eastern Capital) by Japan’s new rulers, the city exemplified the nation’s drive toward modernization. Railroads, steamships, gaslights, telegraph lines, and large brick buildings radically changed the cityscape. Kiyochika set out to record his views of Tokyo in a series of ninety-three woodblock prints.

The modern urban scene was also the chosen subject of James McNeill Whistler. When the young American artist arrived in London in 1859, urban modernization was already well underway. For the next twenty years he explored new ways of seeing the city and the river Thames, and in the process he developed a balance between realism and abstraction that presages the advent of modernism.

As seen in Kiyochika: Master of the Night and An American in London: Whistler and the Thames, these Japanese and American artists expressed common themes and concerns in their artworks. Kiyochika, a painter and printmaker, excelled at atmospheric, moody images of Tokyo after dark, while Whistler adapted his approach to reflect a new and shifting reality.

Your City Views

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