News item from 2011


Yakusha-e: Kabuki prints, a continuing tradition

Kabuki, Japan’s popular theatre, has captivated audiences since the early 1600s, and brilliantly-coloured woodblock prints of famous actors in their elaborate costumes and make-up have been sold to enthusiastic fans for most of its history.

This display of actor prints from the Ashmolean’s collection includes traditional depictions of kabuki actors by late nineteenth-century artists Utagawa Kunisada and Toyohara Kunichika and recently-acquired works by contemporary printmaker Tsuruya Kokei.

Kabuki prints were collected by theatre-goers as souvenirs of performances and favourite stars – in the way we might collect posters for today’s blockbuster movies. Yakusha-e will display 20 woodblock prints showing traditional and contemporary examples of the genre from the Museum’s collection of more than 2,000 Japanese prints. Visitors will have the chance to see, for the first time, the recent gift of works from Tsuruya Kokei.

Kokei depicts moments from actual kabuki performances, and his portraits of modern-day kabuki actors, with their exaggerated facial features and hands, strongly evoke earlier yakusha-e. However, unlike the Japanese ukiyo-e artists of previous centuries, who merely provided publishers with drawings for block cutters and printers to work on, Kokei draws, carves, and prints his own designs.

The lively and colourful images in the display aim to inspire interest in Japanese culture. To accompany Yakusha-e, the Museum will hold a programme of related events including lectures, curator-led tours and Japanese tea ceremony demonstrations in the Ashmolean’s authentic Japanese tea house.

Temporary Display | 29 Nov– 4 Mar 2012 | Gallery 29 | Admission Free

Yakusha-e: Kabuki Prints – A Continuing Tradition has been generously supported by Savills. Established in 1855, Savills is an international advisor on property matters and has had an established presence in Oxford for more than 15 years. Our expertise spans residential, commercial & rural property, planning & development, commercial property management, public sector, and investment & finance. Through the professional advice, property management and the transactional services we provide, we help our clients fulfill their real estate needs – whatever and wherever they are. For further information contact Savills on +44 (0) 1865 269 000 or visit

The Eastern Art Prints and Study Collections
Visitors are welcome to The Jameel Centre to view the Ashmolean’s study collections of Eastern Art. The Eastern Art collections comprise over 30,000 objects spanning 5,000 years. They include ceramics, textiles, sculpture, metalwork, paintings, prints, and other decorative arts from the Islamic world, south and southeast Asia, China, Japan, and Korea. Highlights of the collection include early Chinese greenware ceramics; modern Chinese paintings; Japanese porcelain and art of the Meiji period (1868–1912); Islamic ceramics and textiles; Indian, Tibetan and southeast Asian paintings and sculptures.

Eastern Art Online: Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art
The Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art provides online access to the Ashmolean Museum's Eastern Art department collections. As part of the University of Oxford, the collections hold particular value for teaching and research, but they also appeal to visitors who may not be as familiar with the material. This project aims to open up the collections and enable everyone to find what they are interested in; whether for research, artistic inspiration or general curiosity. Visit:  


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