Hashiguchi Goyo


woman applying powder
(kesho no onna)

pale silver mica background; a beauty holding a black and gold lacquered mirror with her red yukata loosened to expose her shoulders while she applies powder; signed and dated Taisho shichinen Goyo ga (Taisho 7 [1918], by Goyo), with artist's seal Goyo, carver and printer's seal Takeno Shichinosuke (carver) and Somekawa Kanzo (printer), ca. 1918

obaiban tate-e 21 3/4 by 15 3/8 in., 55.4 by 39 cm

After Goyo produced his first print with Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962) in 1915, he published all of his subsequent prints independently, hiring and supervising block carvers and printers in a studio he established in his home. An enthusiastic student of ukiyo-e, Goyo had published articles on woodblock printing, Utamaro (1753-1806), Hiroshige (1797-1858) and Harunobu (ca. 1724-70). He wrote the explanatory section for a publication on Hiroshige’'s Edo kinko hakkei, and he supervised the production of Ukiyo fuzoku ya Yamato nishiki-e (Japanese Manners and Customs and Japanese Color Prints, 1916-17), a massive set of 12 volumes with approximately 140 facsimile reproduction prints of highlights from traditional ukiyo-e. His involvement with this publication surely further fueled his appreciation for woodblock printing and his understanding of the techniques employed by the masters of the golden era, such as the use of karazuri (‘blind printing’) and embellishments such as mica or other metallic pigments. In this, his second bijinga, his unique combination of training and experience is evident. The intimate bust-portrait of a beauty set against a mica ground is reminiscent of those of the late 18th century made famous by artists such as Utamaro; while the delicate pink shading on her skin reveals Goyos yga training.

This print marks an important turning point, not just for Goyo but for his contemporaries as well. While metallic embellishments continued to be frequently utilized in woodblock printing throughout the Edo and Meiji periods, the lavish use of mica on the entire background was an extravagance which had fallen out of favor. This was due, in a large part, to the periodic implementation of sumptuary laws beginning in the late 18th century. It had been nearly 100 years since the use of a full mica background when, in 1917, Watanabe published his first attempt; a print by Ito Shinsui (1898-1972), Haru (Spring) in an edition of 100. After this first run it was said that Shinsui himself requested the production of a new version replacing the mica with dark grey baren swirls. This may have been a reaction to some technical difficulties Watanabe encountered with his mica, for the few copies which are extant and published do have condition problems with the mica in particular, including extensive foxing and uneven distribution of the material (see Ito Shinsui: All the Woodblock Prints; p. 26, pl. 8; The New Wave, p. 181, pl. 229; and The Female Image, p. 51, pl. 29-2).

With this print, Woman Applying Powder, Goyo seems to have solved many of the challenges posed by handling mica. He was apparently pleased with the results as he continued to use mica on all of his subsequent prints depicting beauties. His contemporaries followed his lead; the use of mica became almost de rigueur in the production of top quality bijinga.

Kato, Junzo, comp., Kindai Nihon hanga taikei, 1975-76, Vol. I, pl 95
Merritt, Helen, Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints, 1990, p. 73
Reigle Stephens, Amy, gen. ed., The new wave: Twentieth-century Japanese prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, 1993, p. 127, pl. 128
Brown, Kendall H. & Goodall-Cristante, Hollis, Shin-Hanga, New Prints in Modern Japan, 1996, p. 31, fig. 23
Reigle Newland, Amy, and Hamanaka Shinji, The Female Image: 20th century prints of Japanese beauties, 2000, p. 40, pl. 13
Reigle Newland, Amy, gen. ed., Printed to Perfection: Twentieth-century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, 2004, p. 61, no. 37
Koyama Shuko, Beautiful Shin Hanga- Revitalization of Ukiyo-e, 2009, pl. 1-41

price: Sold

Hashiguchi Goyo


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