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Rudyard Kipling and the mysterious K......

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#1 Spartancrest

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Posted 25 May 2020 - 04:38 AM

I found this very interesting article from a book on Rudyard Kipling's travels through Asia at the end of the 19th century, and would like to share it.

 

From Sea to Sea : Letters of Travel
 
by Rudyard Kipling
 
Publication date 1900
 
 
Talk to every one you meet, if they show the least disposition to talk to you, and you will gather, as I have done, a host of stories that will be of use to you hereafter. Unfortunately, they are not all fit for publication. When I tore myself away from the distractions of the outer world, and was just sitting down to write seriously on the Future of Japan, there entered a fascinating man, with heaps of money, who had collected Indian and Japanese curios all his life, and was now come to this country to get some old books which his collection lacked. Can you imagine a more pleasant life than his wanderings over the earth, with untold special knowledge to back each signature of his cheque-book ?
In five minutes he had carried me far away from the clattering, fidgety folk around, to a quiet world where men meditated for three weeks over a bronze, and scoured all Japan for a sword-guard designed by a great artist and — were horribly cheated in the end. 
'Who is the best artist in Japan now ' I asked. 
'He died in Tokio, last Friday, poor fellow, and there is no one to take his place. His name was K.., and as a general rule he could never be persuaded to work unless he was drunk. He did his best pictures when he was drunk.' 
'Ému. Artists are never drunk.' 
'Quite right. I'll show you a sword-guard that he designed. All the best artists out here do a lot of designing. K... used to fritter away his time on designs for old friends. Had he stuck to pictures he could have made twice as much. But he never turned out pot-boilers. When you go to Tokio, make it your business to get two little books of his called Drunken Sketches — pictures that he did when he was — ému. There is enough dash and go in them to fill half a dozen studios. An English artist studied under him for some time. But K...'s touch was not communicable, though he might have taught his pupil something about technique. Have you ever come across one of K...'s crows ? You could tell it anywhere. He could put all the wicked thoughts that ever came into the mind of a crow — and a crow is first cousin to the Devil — on a piece of paper six inches square, with a brush of Indian ink and two turns of his wrist. Look at the sword-guard I spoke of. How is that for feeling ?' 
On a circular piece of iron four inches in diameter and pierced by the pole for the tang of the blade, poor K..., who died last Friday, had sketched the figure of a coolie trying to fold up a cloth which was bellying to a merry breeze — not a cold wind, but a sportive summer gust. The coolie was enjoying the performance, and so was the cloth. It would all be folded up in another minute and the coolie would go on his way with a grin. 
This thing had K... conceived, and the faithful workman executed, with the lightest touches of the graver, to the end that it might lie in a collector's cabinet in London. 
'Wah ! wah !' I said, and returned it reverently. 'It would kill a man who could do that to 
live after his touch had gone. Well for him he died — but I wish I had seen him.'
 
 
 
Is it a reasonable guess that the mysterious K.... is none other than Kano Natsuo? [The book being published in 1900, and taking time to write and get printed - the death of Kano Natsuo in 1898 would certainly fit the timing.]

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Dale

#2 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 25 May 2020 - 05:00 AM

Just throwing this into the pot!

Drunken Sketches, by Kyosai. (Kyosai Suiga)

https://www.harashob...?print_id=22696

 

Kawanabe Kyosai

https://www.google.c...iw=1349&bih=625


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Piers D

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#3 Spartancrest

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Posted 25 May 2020 - 05:48 AM

Great the mystery seems solved, has anyone seen any tsuba designs by Kyosai Suiga?


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#4 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 25 May 2020 - 06:02 AM

'Toiku' is his other name. (Suiga 醉画 would be "Drunken Pictures")

 

Some of his famous crows here might clinch it (?):

https://www.google.c...&biw=1349&hl=en


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Piers D

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#5 Spartancrest

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Posted 25 May 2020 - 06:53 AM

Fantastic Piers I think you have nailed it!

 

It is an interesting story by a very famous writer, and it shows how even great artists can have human failings.

 

Still looking for those tsuba designs......


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Dale

#6 Brian

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Posted 25 May 2020 - 10:18 AM

Wow..what an interesting story! I love Kipling's writings, and this is just so personal and relevant.
I wonder if we can find a pic of the tsuba under discussion. I guess he did the design, but we don't know who made the tsuba?
Fascinating look into the past, thanks for that Dale.


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#7 Ford Hallam

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Posted 25 May 2020 - 01:14 PM

Never Natsuo, it's well documented that he was a very fastidious man with extremely genteel ways. Drunk? never!

 

Piers has correctly identified Mr K, his book of drunken sketches would clinch that.

 

Kawanabe Kyosai, the demon painter, had an English student, Josiah Condor, who wrote a very useful book on Kyosai's teachings and in which we learn a fair bit of his character. I think perhaps the story of his only working drunk is a bit exaggerated.

 

JConder, Paintings and Studies of Kawanabe Kyosai, Yokohama, 1911


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