Staging the Supernatural: Ghosts and the Theater in Japanese Prints

Price: $14.95
ISBN 13: 1588347206

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Product Description

Meet cat demons, skeletal ghosts, and the nine-tailed kitsune in this brilliant and beautifully illustrated volume of ghost imagery in traditional Japanese theater.

Staging the Supernatural presents striking, eerie nineteenth-century woodblock prints from Japan that feature ghosts, demons, and other supernatural entities. The book digs into the country’s rich folkloric traditions and how they were brought to life on stage, with insightful essays that explore the depiction of spirits through the centuries, the relationship between printed images and cultural imagination, and how kabuki and Noh theater performances reflect Japan’s deep connection to and shifting notions of the supernatural.

The detailed art invites readers to admire the artistic quality and techniques employed to accentuate supernaturalism, including embossing, mica application, and metallic pigments. The prints offer a window into Japan’s 19th-century pop culture and will appeal to fans of contemporary anime and manga, which is often influenced by these images. The book is artfully constructed, with an open spine exposing yellow-ochre thread stitching and a translucent vellum dustjacket printed with ghostly art that adds an ethereal touch. Equal part art and commentary, the book includes:
  • 40 gorgeous woodblock prints with extended text entries
  • Introduction from Pearl Moskowitz, who gifted many of the featured prints to the museum in 2021
  • Essay from museum curator Kit Brooks that explores special effects in kabuki theater ghost plays and their representation in souvenir woodblocks
  • Essay from museum curator Frank Feltens on Tsukioka Kōgyo, the first artist to render the eerie atmosphere of Noh plays in prints

Spooky, fascinating, and fun, this is an ideal book for lovers of Japanese art, folklore, horror, and history.

Author Information

Kit Brooks and Frank Feltens
KIT BROOKS is the Japan Foundation Assistant Curator of Japanese Art at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, specializing in prints and paintings of the Edo and Meiji periods. FRANK FELTENS is Associate Curator of Japanese Art at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art. He is a specialist in Japanese painting, particularly the late Muromachi and Edo periods.

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