The National Museum of Scotland pulls back the curtain on some of its collection of 19th-century Japanese Kabuki theatre woodblock prints, in this colourful and fascinating new exhibition.
Dramatic and unique, Kabuki was an immensely popular form of entertainment, and its all-male actors were the megastars of the time. The mass-produced woodblock prints were snapped up in their thousands, allowing fans to own depictions of their favourite characters and productions.
The exhibition is laid out chronologically, with the earliest prints from the 1830s being relatively delicate and subtle. As time progressed and the public appetite for the prints grew, they became more colourful and flamboyant, depicting popular actors both on and off the stage.
The period coincided with a massive change in Japanese society, with the collapse of the feudal system opening the doors to the previously ignored outside world. Printing techniques and stylistic influence from the west therefore seep into the latter designs, with their vibrant colours and bold designs paving the way for modern-day manga and Japanese graphic design which followed.
Showing in the smaller exhibition space in the modern wing of the museum, Kabuki: Japanese Theatre Prints provides a fascinating glimpse into a section of Japanese culture which, in its own small way, held up a mirror to the changes which were going on around it.
The exhibition runs until 2 February 2014 at the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street. Admission free.