The Second Collection of Modern Beauties was the follow-up to Ito Shinsui’s successful first collection, “Twelve Figures of New Beauties”, also a set of 12 prints issued in editions of 250. While the first collection had been completed in two years, the second series took five years because Shinsui was spending more time on his paintings. This print was created in December 1931.
This print of a bijin-ga (either “under the quilt” or “warming her feet”) is one of the early numbered editions, not the later open reproductions; you can identify the difference through the pre-war 6mm Watanabe seal on the front and the numbering seal on the verso. This print also has the Watanabe gift seal on the verso below the numbering seal.
The verso seals are (on top) 貮百五拾枚絶版 edition of 250 [prints] & 第百参拾参番 [prints] number 133, with the Watanabe gift seal below it.
The Woodblock Print
This rare, numbered edition print by the master of bijin-ga prints is in fine condition; there is wear to the mica background, along with a few spots of faint water stains towards the edges of the image. A few small points of foxing to be seen in the image. A clean verso, intact margins.
About the Artist
Shinsui Itō (伊東 深水, February 1898 – 8 May 1972) was a Japanese artist who specialized in woodblock prints during the early 20th century. He was born in Tokyo in 1898 and was given the name Hajime Itō. He later changed his name to Shinsui, which means “truthful water” in Japanese. Shinsui was one of the leading artists of the shin hanga movement, which focused on creating traditional Japanese woodblock prints in a modern style.
Shinsui’s early work was influenced by the ukiyo-e prints of the Edo period, which featured colorful and intricate designs. He later developed his own style, which was characterized by simplified forms, bold lines, and muted colors. His prints often depicted beautiful women (bijin-ga), landscapes, and scenes from everyday life.
One of Shinsui’s most famous works is the series “Eight Views of Lake Biwa,” which was published in 1918. The series features eight woodblock prints that depict the scenic views of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Shinsui’s use of muted colors and simplified forms in the series was a departure from the more elaborate and detailed prints of the Edo period.
Shinsui’s work was highly regarded in Japan and was also recognized internationally. He exhibited his prints in Europe and the United States, where they were well received by collectors and critics. In 1952, he was awarded the Order of Culture, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Japanese government.
Despite his success, Shinsui was known for his modesty and lived a simple life. He continued to produce prints until his death in 1972, at the age of 74.
- “Shinsui Itō,” The Art Institute of Chicago
- “Shinsui Itō,” Tokyo National Museum
- “Shinsui Itō,” The Met Museum
- “Shin-Hanga: The New Print Movement,” The Art Story
- Smith, Lawrence. “Shinsui Itō.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press