Iso Shinsui
Bibliography (courtesy of Hanga.com)

Shinsui was born with the name of Ito Hajime to a middle-class Tokyo family. As a child, he attended school and apparently did not show a special interest in art. His fortune changed after an unwise investment bankrupted his father's business. At the age of ten, young Hajime was forced to leave school and find work. He found employment at the Tokyo Printing Company where he began to show serious interest and talent in Nihonga, Japanese-style painting.

In 1911, Hajime was given an apprenticeship in the drawing department of the Printing Company. Soon afterwards he was introduced to Kaburagi Kiyokata, the renowned painter, and became Kiyokata's student. It was Kiyokata that gave Hajime his artist's name, Shinsui. The character shin was an alternate reading of the character fuka from Fukagawa, the district in Tokyo where Hajime was born. The character sui was derived from the kiyo character in Kiyokata's own name.

During this time, Shinsui's studies were extremely difficult since he worked during the day and also attended night school. He was immersed in art and, despite the lack of sleep, was quite passionate about his studies. It was not long before his paintings were included in public exhibitions. In 1912 his painting was first shown by the Tatsumi gakai ('Southeast Painting Society') and later works were displayed by the Kyodokai ('Homeland Society'), the Nihon bijutsuin ('Japan art institute'), and in the government sponsored Bunten show.

When Shinsui was eighteen years old, his paintings were seen by the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo at an exhibition at Kiyokata's art school. Watanabe was especially interested in creating a woodblock print from Shinsui's painting Taikyo ('Before the mirror'). He obtained an introduction with Shinsui's teacher Kiyokata and asked for his permission to attempt this experimental print. Permission was granted.

Shinsui's first print, 'Before the Mirror', depicts a young woman wearing a deep red kimono under-robe looking off into an unseen mirror. Instead of using the harsh aniline red so common in Meiji-era prints, Watanabe decided to use a natural vegetable dye to print the red garment. It was necessary to print the robe several times to achieve a rich crimson color. Special care was also taken printing the background, a speckled gray texture that contrasted with the deep expanses of red garment, black hair, and ivory skin. The final effect was simple and spectacular. Watanabe was completely satisfied and began selling the print, even though it was marked as experimental.

Shinsui continued to work with Watanabe from 1916 to 1960, designing both bijin-ga and landscape prints. He also worked with the publishers Isetatsu, the Yomiuri Newspaper Company, and Katsumura. In the later years of his life, he concentrated on painting. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun in 1970.

The '100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos' Series.

This is a rare pre-war (circa 1931) series of gorgeous 'bijin' (beauties) wearing Takasago-dyed kimonos, by 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.

Bijin-Ga, Landscape Prints, and Books

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Bijin Playing Karuta
Date: 1920s/30s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Breaking News - Ako Roshi Vendetta Accomplished
Series: The Loyal Ronin
Date: 1921
Sold

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Firefly
Date: 1920s/30s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Shuttlecock
Date: 1920s/30s

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

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Three Thousand Years
Date: 1930s

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: c. 1931

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

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. 1- Hanging Up A Lantern
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

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. 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
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. 16- Fireworks
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. 19- Contemplation
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. 4- Fireworks
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. 6- Hanging a Mosquito Net
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. 9-Tanabata Festival
Series: 100 Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Kimonos
Date: c. 1931

Machine Printed (Lithographs, Hybrid Lithographs, and Offset printing)

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Applying Makeup
Date: 1910s/20s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Bijin and Umbrella
Date: 1900s-1920s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Bijin at the Beach
Series: Kodan Magazine
Date: 1910s/20s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Bijin by a River
Series: Kodan Magazine
Date: 1910s/20s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Contemplation
Series: Kodan Magazine
Date: 1910s/20s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Maiko
Series: Kodan Magazine
Date: 1932 January

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Mother and Child
Date: 1900s-1920s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Mother and Child
Date: 1900s-1920s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Rain Expected
Series: Kodan Magazine
Date: 1910s/20s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Sleeping Beauty
Date: 1910s/20s

Artist: Shinsui, Ito (1898-1972)
Title: Spring Bijin with Flower Ornament
Series: Kodan Magazine
Date: 1918 March


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