KYŌSAI, SHO-FU (1831–1889), Japanese painter, was born at Koga in the province of Shimotsuke, Japan, in 1831. After working for a short time, as a boy, with Kuniyoshi, he received his artistic training in the studio of Kanō Dōhaku, but soon abandoned the formal traditions of his master for the greater freedom of the popular school. During the political ferment which produced and followed the revolution of 1867, Kyōsai attained a considerable reputation as a caricaturist. He was three times arrested and imprisoned by the authorities of the shogunate. Soon after the assumption of effective power by the mikado, a great congress of painters and men of letters was held, at which Kyōsai was present. He again expressed his opinion of the new movement in a caricature, which had a great popular success, but also brought him into the hands of the police—this time of the opposite party. Kyōsai must be considered the greatest successor of Hokusai (of whom, however, he was not a pupil), and as the first political caricaturist of Japan. His work—like his life—is somewhat wild and undisciplined, and “occasionally smacks of the sakē cup.” But if he did not possess Hokusai’s dignity, power and reticence, he substituted an exuberant fancy, which always lends interest to draughtsmanship of very great technical excellence. In addition to his caricatures, Kyōsai painted a large number of pictures and sketches, often choosing subjects from the folk-lore of his country. A fine collection of these works is preserved in the British Museum; and there are also good examples in the National Art Library at South Kensington, and the Musée Guimet at Paris. Among his illustrated books may be mentioned Yehon Taka-kagami, Illustrations of Hawks (5 vols., 1870, &c.); Kyōsai Gwafu (1880); Kyōsai Dongwa; Kyōsai Raku-gwa; Kyōsai Riaku-gwa; Kyōsai Mangwa (1881); Kyōsai Suigwa (1882); and Kyōsai Gwaden (1887). The latter is illustrated by him under the name of Kawanabe Tōyoku, and two of its four volumes are devoted to an account of his own art and life. He died in 1889.
See Guimet (É.) and Regamey (F.), Promenades japonaises (Paris, 1880); Anderson (W.), Catalogue of Japanese Painting in the British Museum (London, 1886); Mortimer Menpes, “A Personal View of Japanese Art: A Lesson from Kyōsai,” Magazine of Art (1888). (E. F. S.)