VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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American on Horseback
RMV 5093-1
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Whether the artist was drunk or sober, or whatever the nature of the discussion he went into with his friends, what is basically a foreigner on horseback, is essentially a great painting. Prof. Matthi Forrer, curator Japanese arts, Leiden.

History of the Object
It is probably true that Kyōsai made his best paintings when drunk, or at least heavily imbibed by sake. This is not to offend the artist, he himself would readily agree – much of his work, including this painting, is signed Shōjō Kyōsai, ‘the Drunkard Kyōsai’. The signs of how and when he made this painting can easily be seen in its brushwork. It must, indeed, have been one of those evenings, gathering with friends. The party probably landed on the subject of the foreigners coming to Japan in ever larger numbers, whereupon Kyōsai pulled a piece of paper, to illustrate what his tongue could no longer express: ‘foreigners, you know, wearing pot hats, red-bearded, like this’. And so he started painting, simply laying the paper directly on the tatami matting – the pattern of which shows in the brush strokes, moreover bearing witness of the circumstances when Kyōsai made the painting. Maybe the horse was added to poke fun at the foreigners.

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Type
Painting 
Materials
Paper; silk; ivory 
Measurements
Width 59,5 cm. Length 132,5 cm.  
Creator name
Kawanabe Kyosai 
Creator date
1831-1889 
Where it was made
Japan 
Geography
Japan 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th Century 
Function
painting 
Acquisition
Purchased by the museum in 1980. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
State property, the Netherlands 
Museum
National Museum of Ethnology, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde 
Credit line
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, the Netherlands 

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