Ito Shinsui (1898-1972) collection - Ohmi Gallery
Displayed below is a rare pre-war (circa 1931) print series of gorgeous 'bijin' (beautiful women) wearing Takasago-dyed kimonos, by the artist Ito Shinsui. Takasago dyeing is a special fabric dyeing process developed in Japan that dates to the 1600s. Prints from this series are machine printed or possibly lithographic items, and they are the finest examples of pre-war machine printing I've seen to date. According to a seal in the lower margin of each print they were printed using a patented 'KI Banton' platemaking process, so probably an advanced technique for that era. Each scene is printed on washi paper (contains the usual chain lines) and without close inspection it is difficult to determine that these are not woodblock prints. Interestingly, it would appear that none of these scenes are copied from Shinsui's other works (woodblocks or paintings), so I assume that Shinsui composed these especially for this series. Each print is untitled, so where possible I've taken titles from similar woodblock print examples of Shinsui works.

Also displayed are some other artworks by Shinsui, at the bottom of the page.

100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 0 - Grace
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: 1931, early summer

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 1- Hanging Up A Lantern
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 10- Summer
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 11- Behind The Screen
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 11- Behind The Screen (variant)
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 13- Summer Fan
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 14- Summer Night
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 16- Fireworks
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 17- Summer Flowers
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 18- Bijin in Yukata with Fan
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 19- Contemplation
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 20
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 3- Fireflies
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 4- Fireworks
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 5- After A Bath
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 6- Hanging a Mosquito Net
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 7- Flowers
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: No. 9-Tanabata Festival
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931


Publisher and Printer details

This series was published by Kisen-do of Suitengu-Mae, Tokyo (水天宮前喜扇堂発行) - the publisher information is written in blue in the lower left margin of each print. There was apparently two printing companies commissioned by Kisen-do to print this series:

(1) Toppan Printing Company Limited (凸版印刷株式會社), who have over a one hundred year printing history and are still in business with an Internet presence here. For this series they used a "Patented HB" printing process (特許HB製版印刷).

(2) Nissei Printing Company Limited (日清印刷株會社). I can't find any information on this company, from either English or Japanese sources. They used a "Patented KI Banton" printing process (特許KIバントン製版印刷).

Both the HB and KI Banton printing processes appear to have the same printing quality and are probably very similar processes.

Comparison of printing quality

This figure shows a comparison of the printing quality of this circa 1931 series that used the "KI Banton" printing process (left) with that of standard printing technology of the time (right). For comparison I'm using a print insert from the 1932 "Shufu No Tomo" magazine. A number of salient differences in the printing quality can be observed:

  1. Dot size is far smaller (= finer printing quality) for the "KI Banton" printing process;
  2. Dot spacing is slightly less (= finer printing quality) for the "KI Banton" printing process;
  3. Most importantly, the "KI Banton" printing process is able to produce ink diffusion between the printing dots, which results in far finer graduations of colour intensity (= finer printing quality) when compared to standard printing techniques of the time that leave the space between ink dots 'uninked'.
The result is a print with higher spatial and photometric printing quality with ink dot arrangement that lacks the harsh 'geometricity' of conventional printing and appears closer to a lithograph than a machine-printed item.

Other artworks by Shinsui

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Bijin in Snow
Date: 1930s/40s/50s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Bijin Washing In Autumn
Date: 1920s/30s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Bijin Washing In Autumn
Date: 1930s/40s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Evening Storm (in Summer)
Date: 1930s/40s/50s


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