Woman Combing her Hair
(Kami sukeru onna)
a portrait of the model Tomi clad in a blue yukata decorated with white blossoms and secured with a red sash, on light mica ground; signed Goyo ga with artist's seal Hashiguchi Goyo, dated Taishô kyûnen sangetsu (Taishô 9 , March)
obaiban tate-e 17 5/8 by 13 5/8 in., 44.8 by 34.5 cm
After Goyo produced his first print with Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962), 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 kinkô hakkei, and he supervised the production of Ukiyo fûzoku 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.
This bust portrait depicts one of Goyo's favorite models, Tomi, wearing a summer kimono tied simply with a red sash. She tilts her head slightly downward and holds her hair away from her face while she pulls a comb through her exceedingly long tresses. Goyo was an exacting printmaker: the works produced under his care (and even those produced shortly after his untimely passing at the age of 40 in 1921 due to complications from meningitis), are of a consistently high quality. This impression is particularly remarkable for the very fine printing of her hair.
This image is not only one of the most important bijin prints of the shin hanga genre; it transcends its era and stands out as an iconic work among Japanese woodblock prints of any period.
Katô, Junzô, comp., Kindai Nihon hanga taikei, 1975-76, Vol. I, tipped in frontispiece
Newland, Amy & Uhlenbeck, Chris, eds., Ukiyo-e to Shin-hanga: The Art of Japanese Woodblock Prints, 1990, p. 217
Reigle Newland, Amy, and Hamanaka Shinji, The Female Image: 20th century prints of Japanese beauties, 2000, p. 43, pl. 17
Reigle Newland, Amy, gen. ed., Printed to Perfection: Twentieth-century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 2004, p. 62, no. 38
Mueller, Laura J., Strong Women, Beautiful Men: Japanese Portrait Prints from the Toledo Museum of Art, 2005, p. 56, no. 28
Zehnder, Amanda T., Modern Japanese Prints: The Twentieth Century, Carnegie Museum of Art, 2009, p. 35
Koyama Shuko, Beautiful Shin Hanga- Revitalization of Ukiyo-e, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 2009, pp. 36-37, pl. 1-45 (and detail)
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