The Key by Tanizaki Junichiro: Portrait of Ikuko and Glasses on Her Belly
(Kagi hanga saku: Daisho no saku, Hara megane no saku)
sumizuri-e with artist's red Muna seal at lower left margin, signed and dated in penciled kanji, Shiko, and penciled English, Munakata, 1958, with artist's pine needle symbol, 1958
16 5/8 by 12 in., 42.2 by 30.5 cm
In 1956 the famous writer Tanizaki Jun'ichiro (1886-1965) asked his longtime friend Munakata to provide illustrations to accompany his forthcoming novel, Kagi (The Key), which was serialized in the literary magazine, Chuo koron. Munakata designed fifty-four prints that were produced in the order in which they appeared in the publication. The novel was a highly charged and somewhat dark exploration of relationships, presented as parallel diaries of a middle-aged husband and his younger wife, Ikuko, who he encourages to have an affair in order to stimulate his waning sexual desires.
The designs for the series captured the erotic tension of the novel, with cropped figures and fragmented scenes that complimented the dueling perspectives and passions of the husband and wife. This print is comprised of two of the most recognizable designs from the series, the suggestive nude of Ikuko in repose with Glasses on Her Belly, and the striking Ikuko okubi-e ('big head') portrait, returning our gaze which according to the Munakata museum inspired him to design many more (now highly sought-after) okubi-e portraits of beauties.
Japanese Folk Crafts Museum and Ohara Museum of Art, Munakata Shiko, Nishitoba Seihan Insatsujo, Japan, 1970, nos. 73, 75
Joan S. Baker, Mokuhan: The Woodcuts of Munakata & Matsubara, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia, 1976, no. 28 (a large head)
The Complete Works of Shiko Munakata, Vol. 1, The World of Tales, Kodansha, 1978, no. 442 ( a large head), no. 436 (glasses on her belly)
Jennifer Boynton and Kakeya Kiyoko, Munakata Shiko: Japanese Master of the Modern Print, Munakata Museum, Kamakura, Japan, 2002, p. 107, no. 16 (and on series)
Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu), reference no. 1961.115 (glasses on her belly)
(inv. no. 10-5123)
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