Love, Fight, Feast

The Multifaceted World of Japanese Narrative Art

Telling stories through images: Japan’s multifaceted narrative art across eight centuries


Title Information

Edited by Khanh Trinh

1st edition

, 2021

Hardback (Flexicover)

366 pages, 299 color and 6 b/w illustrations

23 x 28 cm

ISBN 978-3-03942-024-7

In cooperation with Museum Rietberg, Zürich


The use of pictures to communicate a story has a long tradition in Japanese culture that dates back more than a thousand years. Such narrative illustrations draw on Buddhist texts, classic literature, poetry, and theatrical scenes to create rich visual imagery realized in a wide range of media and formats. Quotations from and allusions to heroic epics and romances were disseminated through exquisite paintings, woodblock prints, and in pieces of applied arts such as lacquerware or ceramics, thus becoming anchored in the collective consciousness. As story-telling art found expression in a variety of materialities, it became an integral part of daily life. A fascinating narrative space evolved that combined artistic excellence and aesthetic pleasure.

Love, Fight, Feast features some one hundred paintings, woodblock prints, illustrated woodblock-printed books, as well as lacquer and metal objects, porcelain, and textiles from the thirteenth to the twentieth century, alongside scholarly essays on a range of aspects of Japanese narrative art. Published in conjunction with an exhibition at the renowned Museum Rietberg in Zurich, the book o­ffers a unique survey of the multifaceted, colorful, and imaginative world of Japanese narrative art across eight centuries.

With essays by Sebastian Balmes, Estelle Bauer, Jaqueline Berndt, Melanie Trede, and Khanh Trinh. Further contributions by Ioana-Adina Bădescu, Véronique Béranger, Marta Boscolo Marchi, Rosina Buckland, Györgi Fajcsák, Alexander Hofmann, Vincent Lefèvre, Béatrice Quette, Mary Redfern, Anna Saweljewa, Wibke Schrape, Laure Schwartz-Arenales, Hamish Todd und Wang Fengyu. Foreword by Annette Bhagwati.


Khanh Trinh is curator of Japanese and Korean Art at Zurich's Museum Rietberg since 2015. Prior to this she worked as curator and lecturer in Japanese Art History in Berlin (Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, 1997–2004), Tokyo (Waseda University, 2006–07), and Sydney (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2007–15).


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Suzuki Harunobu (ca. 1725–1770), “Eight Bridges”, from the Series Parody of The Ise Stories. Edo period, ca. 1767. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, 27.7 × 20.9 cm. Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels © RMAH, Bruxelles

Women’s Outer Robe (uchikake) with Designs in the Lining of bugaku Props and Maple Leaves. Edo period, mid-18th century. Silk, yūzen paste-resist dyeing, silk thread embroidery, 170 × 122 cm. Museo d’Arte Orientale, Venice © Venezia, Museo d’Arte Orientale – Direzione regionale Musei Veneto, «su concessione del Ministerio per i beni e le attività culturali e per il turismo»

Ganshōsai Shunsui (1822–1880), Four-Tiered inrō with Design of Taira no Yoshimitsu Teaching Toyohira Tokiaki to Play the Mouth Organ on Mount Ashigara. Edo period, late 19th century. Wood, gold and silver maki-e, inlay with abalone shell on black lacquer ground, 9 × 7.6 × 1.9 cm. Fondation Baur – Musée des Arts d’Extrême Orient, Geneva © Fondation Baur, photo : Studio Gérard

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861), The Young Diver from Shido. Edo period, ca. 1847–1848. Woodblock print, triptych; ink and color on paper, 37.8 × 76 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London © Victoria and Albert Museum

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892), Taira no Kiyomori Seeing the Skulls of His Enemies in the Snowy Garden, from the series A New Selection of Stranger Events. Meiji period, 1882. Woodblock print, triptych; ink and color on paper, 36.4 × 73.8 cm. Museum Rietberg, Zurich © photo: Rainer Wolfsberger

Women’s Unlined Long-Sleeved Kimono (furisode) with Courtly Motifs. Edo period, mid-18th century. Silk gauze, yūzen paste-resist dyeing, silk thread embroidery, 127 × 96 cm. Museo d’Arte Orientale, Venice © Venezia, Museo d’Arte Orientale – Direzione regionale Musei Veneto, «su concessione del Ministerio per i beni e le attività culturali e per il turismo»

Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806), Parody of the “Akuta River”, Episode in The Ise Stories. Edo period, ca. 1801–1806. Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, 87 × 40 cm. The State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow

The Illuminated Sutra of Cause and Effect in the Past and Present. Kamakura period, late 13th century. Fragment of a handscroll mounted as a hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, 27.8 × 63.7 cm. Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Cologne © Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

Folding Screens with “Scattered” Books and Scrolls with Narrative Paintings. Edo period, mid-18th century. Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper, 168 × 378 cm (each). Musée des Arts Asiatiques, Nice © Musée Départemental des Arts Asiatiques (Nice) – Marlène Poppi

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