Art Gallery – Six Modern Bijin Artists You Should Follow

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Bijin-ga (美人画) literally means “picture of beautiful person”. They originate in the woodblock prints of the Edo era, and typically depicted beautiful women from various walks of life – from everyday women doing everyday things to famous courtesans reclining in luxurious surroundings. Many famous artists produced bijin-ga prints; some of the most well-known being Utagawa Kunisada, Kitagawa Utamaro, and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Around the transitional period from late Meiji through Taisho into early Showa era, artists such as Jun’ichi Nakahara, Yumeji Takehisa, and Katsuji Matsumoto‘s modern styles made an enormous impact on traditional bijin-ga and produced works that helped form the flowery, large-eyed shoujo manga aesthetic as we know it.

With the advent of more modern printing technologies and digital painting, art has become more accessible than ever before. There are incredible modern artists out there today producing breathtaking works that continue to challenge the way we think of traditional Japanese art of gorgeous women. These are the sorts of artists I’m going to focus on. I urge you to check out their galleries, follow them on social media, and buy their prints to support them if you can.

While these featured artists are all incredibly versatile and do portraits of women in kimono and modern clothes as well as floral studies and still-lifes, I chose to focus on kimono-clad beauties to keep with the spirit of bijin-ga.

This entry will be long and image-heavy, so please click through to keep reading! Continue reading

Art Gallery – Vintage Woodblock Prints

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A few years ago on my birthday, I went to dinner with my folks and some family friends. I had a wonderful time, the food was delicious, and I got some lovely gifts.

Leslie is the daughter of my father’s godmother. Bear with me, I know this is starting to sound like the beginning of an urban legend, but it is well and truly relevant. My grandmother and I share a birthday, and I believe inherited a lot of my fascination with the Japanese aesthetic from her. Her apartment was so tastefully furnished and had a lot of beautiful Japanese antiques and art pieces. I think they had a profound impact on me when I was a young girl, more so than I realized until recently. Kay, Leslie’s mother, was my grandmother’s dear friend when they were young, and was my father’s godmother. Leslie is family, even though not related by blood.

 

Kay purchased these beautiful woodblock prints while travelling in Japan with my grandmother many years ago. As far as I can tell, they were carefully lifted from a hand-bound book, each one has holes along one end of the page. The labels on the backs of the frames credit them to Utagawa Kunisada and date them to the mid-1800s. I have been unable to find other copies of these two prints anywhere on the internet so I can’t back the veracity of the claims, but they seem reasonable.

Imagine my shock when Leslie passed these on to me for my birthday, knowing how touched I would be, and how much I would appreciate them. All the gifts I got were incredibly thoughtful and I appreciated them all, but I was well and truly flabbergasted by these two simple but beautiful prints, due to the way they tied so many facets of the relationship between Leslie, her mother, my grandmother, and myself together so beautifully.