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Kusakabe Kimbei

(Konkonchiki) Japanese Girls Playing Game

c. 1880s

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Kusakabe Kimbei trained as a photo-colorist and apprentice with European photographers in Japan before founding a studio in Yokohama in 1881 that often sold hand-painted landscape photographs and posed portraiture, often in souvenir albums.

The sitters in Kusakabe’s Three Samurai bear the equipment of Japan’s elite military class, including katana, or long swords, and flexible armor made from pieces of lacquered metal linked with silk cords. Given that the samurai class was abolished after the Meiji restoration of 1868, these men are likely actors or models. Girls Showing the Back Style captures the designs on the kimono and obi sashes of three geisha—professional beauties—or, again, models. Kusakabe exclusively photographed sitters in such traditional clothing, rather than the modern styles many Japanese women had begun to adopt by the 1880s. [Permanent collection label, 2022]

  • Artist Kusakabe Kimbei (Japanese, 1841–1934)
  • Title (Konkonchiki) Japanese Girls Playing Game
  • Date c. 1880s
  • Credit line Gift of Laurie Wilson, Robert Frerck, and family, 2015
  • Object number 469.2015
  • Currently on View Works on Paper Gallery

19th- and 20th-Century Travel Photography
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 11/11/2022

12/10/2015 Received at MLKAM; 12/30/2015 Deed of Gift signed by L. Wilson; 3/31/2016 ACC presentation
Robert Frerck (Chicago, IL)

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