October 15, 2020 4 min read

Ito Shinsui (1898-1972) was born in Fukagawa of Tokyo and his real name was Hajime. In 1908, he worked in Tokyo Printing Co. Ltd., where he’d pick up stamps and print words in the sequence of the manuscript, and he also picked up some skills relating to lithography. In those days, he learnt the basics of Japanese art from Mizuno Toshikata’s Nakayama Shuko. In 1911, he became a trainee of the Tokyo Printing’s main office in Nihonbashi. Through the introduction of Yuuki Somei, he became a disciple of Kaburaki Kiyokata at the age of 14, where he received his name Shinsui. In 1927, he painted onto a wall in his residence at the age of 29, which became one of his popular artworks. In 1930, he built an art office in Ikegami, where he took in hundreds of disciples and imparted his knowledge. In that year, he launched the first wall mural exhibition which would later become an established annual event. Unfortunately, the office was destroyed during the Tokyo air raids. Throughout Ito Shinsui’s long life, he has been heavily involved in the art industry for about 60 years where he made many contributions as an active member of The Japan Art Academy; he’d also judge in many famous art competitions. Ito Shinsui unfortunately passed away in 1972 at the age of 74 due to cancer. While Ito Shinsui mainly specialize in the portraits of beauties, his works are quite diverse in terms of its approach of reflecting the lives of these beauties.

AFTER WASHING HER HAIR (1936)After washing her hair (1936) | Buy this print >>>


is part of the Modern Beauties Series II by Ito Shinsui. This art piece portrays a beautiful lady combing her hair with an extremely fine-teeth comb, and we could see extremely intricate details like the strands of thick luster hair. As the title of the work has explicitly stated, the lady has just washed her hair and both her blue outfit and the bright azure sky behind gives an overall refreshing sensation to viewers. The facial features of the lady were pleasant as her delicate eyes, nose and red lips come together nicely. It’s not merely just her face which was beautiful; the placement of the lady’s hand as she combs her hair with hair emits flair of elegance which gives another dimension to this art.

Snowy night (1923)


We could see the versatility in Ito Shinsui’s work from SNOWY NIGHT (1923). In this art piece, we could see a demure lady concealing her mouth with her sleeves, perhaps as an attempt to warm herself up with her breath in the cold weather. Unlike AFTER WASHING HER HAIR (1936), the lady in SNOWY NIGHT (1923) has her hair put up neatly, aside from a few loose strands. The fine structure of the umbrella was captured down with geometric dimensions, which gives a unique characteristic to this work. The white snow in the forefront provides a sentimental feeling and we could feel the coldness, both physical and emotional, felt by the mysterious lady. Her red sleeves add a slight vibrant hint to the otherwise dark painting.

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892) was born in Oedo Shimbashi, Tokyo, and his real name was Yoshioka Yonejirou. In his short living years, he married twice. In his first marriage, he had a child who unfortunately passed away at the young age of 2. He later remarried to Sakamaki Yasu and raised her two children. Yoshitoshi Tsukioka’s a versatile artist as his works deal with a wide range of theme from terrifying scenes of Kabuki plays and wars to portraits of beauties. He became a disciple of the famous Edo artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi at the age of 12, and published his first work at the age of 15. Yoshitoshi Tsukioka’s so devoted to his work that at the age of 34, he fell into depression as he collapsed from the stress. Fortunately, he got better the following year where he started a new genre of work titled “The Great Recovery”. In 1889, he started on a 36-piece series (Shinkei Sanjyuuroku Kaisen) which revolved around the theme of supernatural spirits and demons; unfortunately, his mental health deteriorated once again and he passed away before he could complete the series. After his death, his disciples gathered together to complete the Shinkei Sanjyuuroku Kaisen.

Minamoto no yorimitsu preparing to kill the earth spider (1892)


This work is part of the Shinkei Sanjyuuroku Kaisen and it illustrates how the folklore Earth Spider terrorizes Minamoto no Yorimitsu. The round yellow eyes with crescent-shaped irises, thin muscular arms and the detailed webs of the Earth Spider would have had scared off anyone. However, the famous celebrated hero, Minamoto no Yorimitsu, was not one to back off. His arched eyebrows and focused expression illustrates his bravery and clear intention to slay the Earth Spider. While Minamoto no Yorimitsu’s in his sleepwear and parts of his colorful blanket could be seen, he has clearly not let his guards down at all; his hands were on his swords and he seemed ready to launch his attack. It’s amazing how Yoshitoshi Tsukioka managed to express the intense fight in a dynamic manner.



Yoshitoshi Tsukioka’s versatility in his art styles is evident from this work. Compared to the dark MINAMOTO NO YORIMITSU PREPARING TO KILL THE EARTH SPIDER (1892), here we see an elegant Geisha clasping her hands to catch a firefly. While both Minamoto no Yorimitsu and this Geisha were focused with a certain goal, the vibes they emanate were clearly different. The focused look of the Geisha was more of a playful one. Her mannerism may be child-like but her exposed smooth skin, arched eyebrows, long thin nose and dainty red lips gives her a mature vibe. The fan with a drawing of flower in her mouth provides yet another interesting pattern texture. From the way the geisha’s wispy hair was flowing, we could imagine the summer breeze was a gentle one as three fireflies light up the dark night.




This amazing article written by Yeong!


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