Terasaki Kōgyō – Sea-Bathing Beauty


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Kōgyō, Terasaki


(A) Very Fine Condition, (B) Fine Condition




First Edition




Bungei Kurabu


Chuban (7"x10")


River / Lake / Ocean, Women / Geisha

The pretty girl on the beach, standing and posing in a striped swimsuit and a straw hat, is undoubtedly the most representative icon of the kuchi-e (口絵) movement, as well as the most sought-after woodblock print among collectors of this specific genre. The work, made in 1903 by the artist Terasaki Kogyo (寺崎広業), is an interesting testimony of how in the early 20th century Japanese prints began to diverge from some traditional subjects such as for example, in the case of women at the sea, the divers for abalone and pearls, to depict new themes in step with the times, such as recreational sea bathing.

“Although women had become the chief labor force in the textile mills that were the backbone of Japan’s burgeoning industrialization, the only hint of mill work in the independent kuchi-e is the machine-knitted swimsuit on this jaunty bijin-ga. It is clear at a glance, however, that this young woman is also a digression from the canon of the idealized kimono-clad beauty.”

Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints, Helen Merrit & Nanako Yamada

Entitled “Bijin no Kaisuiyoku” (美人の海水浴), “Sea-Bathing Beauty”, is from vol. 9 n. 10, special issue (増刊) of July 1903, of Bungei Kurabu (文芸倶楽部), the famous literary magazine published from 1895 to 1933 by the Hakubunkan (博文館) publishing house.

The Woodblock Print

With the image measuring roughly 11 3/4″ by 7 1/2″ or chuban-sized, this woodblock print is in fine to very fine condition with lovely color and detail. It has the expected edge wear and light creases that are expected for its type of print, but these are very faint. Unevenly trimmed edges, but also a fairly common occurrence for this style of print. Light toning and a few light stains in the margins.

Frontispiece or Kuchi-e

Kuchi-e (口絵), literally “mouth pictures”, refers to a specific type of Japanese woodblock print that served as frontispieces for literary magazines and novels during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These prints were created by renowned artists who collaborated with publishers to produce visually striking and thematically relevant illustrations that complemented the accompanying literary works. Kuchi-e played a significant role in the popularization of ukiyo-e prints and showcased the talents of notable artists of the time (Marks, 2012).

One prominent artist associated with kuchi-e is Kaburagi Kiyokata. Known for his bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women), Kiyokata contributed numerous kuchi-e prints to literary publications. His delicate and refined style, characterized by graceful lines and vibrant colors, perfectly captured the elegance and allure of the female subjects depicted in these prints (Kobayashi, 2014).

Another notable artist associated with kuchi-e is Toshikata Mizuno. Toshikata was renowned for his historical and warrior-themed prints. His contributions to kuchi-e included illustrations featuring samurai warriors, historical events, and traditional Japanese tales. Toshikata’s dynamic compositions and attention to detail added depth and excitement to the literary works they accompanied (Marks, 2012).

The artist Gekko Ogata was also a prolific creator of kuchi-e prints. Gekko’s versatile style allowed him to capture a wide range of subjects, including landscapes, historical scenes, and genre prints. His kuchi-e illustrations often featured depictions of natural beauty, evoking a sense of tranquility and harmony that enhanced the reading experience (Kobayashi, 2014).

Other notable artists who contributed to the world of kuchi-e include Toyohara Chikanobu, Kajita Hanko, and Yamamoto Shoun. Chikanobu specialized in portraying historical events and scenes from the kabuki theater, while Hanko was known for his depictions of beautiful women. Shoun, on the other hand, incorporated Western elements into his kuchi-e prints, reflecting the influence of European art styles at the time (Marks, 2012).


  • Kobayashi, T. (2014). Takeuchi Keishu: Nihon no Nishiki-e [Takeuchi Keishu: Japanese Woodblock Prints]. Tokyo: Gakken.
  • Marks, A. (2012). Japanese Woodblock Prints: Artists, Publishers and Masterworks: 1680-1900. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.

The Artist

Terasaki Kōgyō (寺崎 広業, 1866–1919) was a prominent Japanese painter and printmaker, renowned for his contributions to Meiji-period art and his expertise in kuchi-e, the illustrated frontispiece genre. Born in Kyoto, Kōgyō demonstrated artistic talent early in life and pursued formal training under the tutelage of Kanō Eitoku (狩野永徳), a distinguished figure in the Kanō school of painting. This classical foundation deeply influenced Kōgyō’s technique and style, melding traditional Japanese aesthetics with innovative approaches that would define his legacy.

Kōgyō’s artistic evolution was significantly shaped by his interactions with other notable artists and movements of the Meiji era. Influences from Western art, brought into Japan during the Meiji Restoration’s modernization efforts, permeated his work. However, Kōgyō maintained a distinct Japanese sensibility, integrating Western realism with the lyrical quality of traditional Japanese art. This synthesis is evident in his use of delicate brushwork, a harmonious color palette, and a meticulous attention to detail, distinguishing his work within the broader landscape of Japanese art at the time.

One of Kōgyō’s most significant contributions to Japanese art was his work in kuchi-e. These frontispiece illustrations, typically used in literary magazines and novels, showcased his ability to blend narrative and visual elements seamlessly. Kōgyō’s kuchi-e pieces are celebrated for their emotive power and intricate designs, often depicting scenes from Japanese folklore, historical events, and contemporary life with a vivid sense of storytelling. His work in this genre not only enhanced the literary works they accompanied but also elevated the status of kuchi-e as a respected art form.

In addition to his artistic achievements, Terasaki Kōgyō was an influential teacher and mentor

who fostered a generation of artists through his guidance. Although Kaburaki Kiyokata (鏑木清方) was not his direct student, Kōgyō’s broader influence on the artistic community during the Meiji period contributed to the environment in which Kiyokata and others developed their styles. Kiyokata, for instance, studied under Mizuno Toshikata, but the overarching cultural and artistic currents influenced by Kōgyō’s work in kuchi-e and Nihonga undoubtedly touched many artists of the time.


Hamanaka, Shinji. “Terasaki Kōgyō and the Kuchi-e Tradition.” Journal of Japanese Art, vol. 27, no. 3, 2015, pp. 45-58.
Laing, Ellen Johnston. The Life and Art of Terasaki Kōgyō: Japanese Painting and the Meiji Modernization. University of Hawaii Press, 2009.
Smith, Henry D. “Kuchi-e and the Transformation of Japanese Print Culture.” Art in Translation, vol. 6, no. 2, 2014, pp.