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Kōgyo: The Art of Noh

What's online?

The entire collection is scanned and online.

What's in the entire collection?

The University of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS) owns and curates the largest collection of Japanese color woodblock prints depicting the Noh theatre created by the artist Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927) held outside of Japan. The four sets comprise Nōgaku zue 能樂圖繪, or Pictures of Noh; Nōgaku hyakuban 能楽百番, or Prints of One Hundred Noh Plays; Nōga taikan 能画大鑑, or A Great Collection of Prints of Noh Plays; and Kyōgen gojūban 狂言五十番, or Fifty Kyōgen Plays.

About each Kōgyo series

Nōgaku zue was originally published in Tokyo during the Meiji Era, 1897-1902. The series comprises five volumes of 261 prints inspired by the plays of classical Japanese noh theatre. The Library System's Nōgaku zue is protected by a silk wrap-around chitsu (chemise) and stored in archival boxes. Each volume is of equal size and thickness and bound in the manner of traditional Japanese orihon, or folding scrolls. Each volume contains fifty-two or fifty-three full-page, multi-colored woodblock prints of noh (also spelled: nō, nô) theatre subjects.

Nōgaku hyakuban was published in Tokyo between 1922-1926. The Nōgaku hyakuban prints are dramatically different from those in the Nōgaku zue. Here Kōgyo focused on the shite, that is, the main actor, and, for the most part, excluded other actors. The prints were originally sold as a monthly series in envelopes with three prints each. The Library owns a envelop donated by Professors Emeriti Richard and Mae Smethurst.

Nōga Taikan was published in Tokyo between 1925 and 1930. The original designs for Volumes 2 through 5 were drawn by Kōgyo, but the drawings for twenty-four of the prints in Volume 1 were created after Kōgyo’s death by Matsuno Sōfū, Kōgyo’s very talented protégé. Each print is a scene from the noh play represented, similar to the same scene as it appeared on stage. Of Kōgyo’s three sets of noh prints, the Nōga Taikan prints seem to show the plays more accurately than either Nōgaku zue or Nōgaku hyakuban. The series contains 200 prints with synopses of noh play.

Kyōgen gojūban was published in Tokyo in 1927. It is an album of 50 prints inspired by kyōgen theatre, the comedic counterpart to noh, by Kōgyo and his daughter, Tsukioka Gyokusei (1908-2009). The Library's Kyōgen gojūban is bound as one volume in folding album-format, which is the manner of traditional Japanese orihon, or folding scrolls. It is protected by a linen wrap-around chitsu (chemise), probably made more recently than the album itself. This album of color woodblock prints is similar to, but not exactly like, the bound volumes of Kōgyo’s Nōgaku zue.

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