Kyosai was an artist in Japanese history born in 1831, his artwork has influenced tattooing and many aspects of Japanese traditional tattoos specifically. He is most well know for his eccentrically crafted paintings. His talents were renowned throughout Japan during his most prominent days especially as a satirist, targeting the Japanese police force and other aspects of the government with his work. He received multiple jail sentences and countless lashings as a result of his persistence. Kyosai was a total outlaw in his time and a true inspiration. He has a ton of work that has influenced tattooing for over a century most of which got him at least a few lashings for his creativity.
In a previous post we discussed the dynamic of an artist Hokusai and his studies, Kyosai studied the art work a great deal which turned out to be a great influence on him and his craft. This probably one of the primary reasons his artwork generates so much movement and visual impact. Kyosai was not a student of Hokusai however, he is considered as one of his greatest successors.
By the time his life was winding down he was noted for his eclectic nature and exuberance in all facets of his life. He had created hundreds of publications, comics, Shunga, artwork, drawing etc all of which had significant influence in art and tattooing. The Hell Scrolls is a personal favorite collection of imagery and worth checking out. It is a dynamic depiction of the creatures and layers of hell that holds a lot of meaning in Japanese culture. Yomi, or Japanese land of the dead, is an exciting environment full of fire, torture and extreme pain for eternity. Crows with lava hot beaks eat you skin of and and the forrest leaves are blades, these are just a few of the terrors that await. Kyosai’s imagination was wild and fantastic, he was able to depict many amazing Japanese legends and creatures of folk lore so powerfully that it captivated Japan. As the western world moved in and began trading with Japan they were even intrigued by his creations and power images.
Timeless images have influenced tattooing specifically traditional Japanese tattooing for hundreds of years. Because of Kyosai, Hokusai and many other artists we have lifetimes worth of tattoo reference.
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