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Stars of Tokyo | Cowra Regional Art Gallery

Salacious scandal & samurais with this touring exhibition


Natori Shunsen was the Annie Lebowitz of his time, which happened to be Japan in the 1930’s. The artist, who was a painter and superb cartoonist, depicted Kabuki actors – the movie stars of their day – who were wildly popular with the Japanese public as much for their colourful personal lives as for the flamboyant portrayals of beloved characters.

Shunsen’s prints provide a fascinating glimpse into this glamorous world, while demonstrating consummate mastery of traditional Japanese printmaking techniques.

An inspiration to artists for centuries, kabuki draws on Japan’s rich folklore, literature and history, as well as violent, romantic and scandalous events, to present lavish dramatic performances.

The collection is touring from the exclusive National Gallery of Australia collection, Stars of the Tokyo Stage explores kabuki and modern Japanese printmaking in the context of the astounding changes taking place in Tokyo as the 20th century unfolded. It is currently showing at Cowra Regional Gallery.

This is the first time a complete set of prints by Natori Shunsen has been exhibited in Australia. It was gifted to the gallery as an incomplete set, which triggered a scavenger hunt to source the complete collection from across the world. The collection contains the full 36 precious prints and two stunning, rare costumes and provides a striking insight into the world of Kabuki.

Stars of the Tokyo Stage will no doubt entice and enthral visitors to the exhibition. The drama, spectacle and excitement of kabuki will be conveyed through rare prints and costumes, none of which have been displayed outside the National Gallery of Australia, and the exhibition encapsulates the power and intensity of this world renowned art form’, said Ron Radford AM, Director, National Gallery of Australia.



Curator: Melanie Eastburn

Media Contact: Brian Langer (02) 63402192.


Image: Detail of  Natori Shunsen (Japan 1886-1960) Nakamura Shikaku II as Shizuka Gozen in ‘Yoshitsune and the thousand cherry trees’ 1926 from the series Collection of creative portraits by Shunsen woodblock print, embossing; ink and colour on paper, 38.2 x 25.6 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, gift of Jennifer Gordon 1998.