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Bijin Kuchi-e and Taishō-Era Popular Magazines

Prints in Collection

 Onatsu Kyōran
7 9/16 x 10 in.
(19.2 x 25.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1871


 Bijin in Brown Kimono (untitled)
Bijin in Brown Kimono (untitled)
from an unknown magazine,
c. 1915-early 1930s

Igawa Sengai (1876-1961)
12 5/16 x 8 3/4 in.
(31.3 x 22.2 cm)
IHL Cat. #1616
 
Bijin with sake bowl
Bijin with Sake Bowl (阿艶殿)
from an unknown magazine,
c. 1915-early 1930s

Igawa Sengai (1876-1961)
printing company:Tokyo Seibidō
11 11/16 x 8 11/16 in.
(29.7 x 22.1 cm)
IHL Cat. #1798
 
Onshi no musume
Onshi no musume (恩師の娘)
from an unknown magazine,
c. 1915-early 1930s

Igawa Sengai (1876-1961)
11 13/16 x 8 3/8 in.
(30 x 21.3 cm)
IHL Cat. #1861 

Life's Fallen Leaves
11 7/8 x 8 5/8 in.
(30.2 x 21.9 cm)
IHL Cat. #1878


Woman in Brown Kimono (untitled)
Woman in Brown Kimono (untitled)
from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s

Morita Hisashi
(active c. 1910s-early 1930s)

9 1/8 x 6 1/8 in.
(23.2 x 15.6 cm)
IHL Cat. #1633
 
Woman in Blue Kimono (untitled)
8 13/16 x 5 3/4 in.
(22.4 x 14.6 cm)
IHL Cat. #1634

 Modern Woman in Café (untitled)
8 11/16 x 6 1/8 in.
(22.1 x 15.6 cm)
IHL Cat. #1635

Woman in Light Brown Stripped Kimono (untitled)
Woman in Stripped Kimono Carrying Furoshiki  (untitled)
from an unknown magazine 

c. 1915-early 1930s
Morita Hisashi
(active c. 1910s-1930s)

8 3/4 x 5 15/16 in.
(22.2 x 15.1 cm)
IHL Cat. #1636


Woman Looking in Shop Window (untitled)
8 3/4 x 5 15/16 in.
(22.2 x 15.1 cm)
 IHL Cat. #1637

Woman and Caged Bird (untitled)
Woman and Caged Bird (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s

Morita Hisashi
(active c. 1910s-1930s)

7 3/16 x 4 13/16 in.
(18.3 x 12.2 cm)
IHL Cat. #1638

Modern Woman Looking in Shop Window Before the New Year (untitled)
Modern Woman Looking in Shop Window Before the New Year (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s

Morita Hisashi
(active c. 1910s-1930s)

7 7/8 x 5 3/4 in.
(20 x 14.6 cm)
IHL Cat. #1639

Woman and Child Looking at Doll Display
Doll Display (untitled) from an unknown magazine
8 15/16 x 5 9/16 in.
(22.7 x 14.1 cm)
IHL Cat. #1640


Woman at the beach (untitled)
printing company: Tokyo Seibidō
14 1/8 x 7 1/4 in.
(35.9 x 18.4 cm)
 IHL Cat. #2388

Bijin with Letter (untitled)
Bijin with Letter (untitled) from an unknown magazine (reproduction of painting on silk),
c. 1915-early 1930s

Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921)
printing company: Tokyo Seibidō
14 1/4 x 7 1/2 in.
(36.2 x 19.1 cm)
IHL Cat. #1345 

Bijin in brown haori and shawl over green komono (untitled)
 Bijin in Brown Haori Over Green Kimono (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s

Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921)
14 1/4 x 10 1/8 in.
(36.2 x 26 cm)
IHL Cat. #1786

Bijin in black kimono (untitled)
Bijin in Black Kimono Holding Thread (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1030s

Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921)
14 5/8 x 9 15/16 in.
(37.1 x 25.2 cm)
IHL Cat. #1787 

 
An October Diary (Jūgatsu no nikki)
An October Diary
(Jugatsu no nikki) appearing in the magazine Katei zasshi (The Home Journal)
 Vol. 1, No. 5, October 1915

publisher: Hakubunkan
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921)
14 5/16 x 7 1/4 in.
(36.4 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #2390

Bijin in black kimono (untitled)
January 1917
publisher:  Niigata Nippōsha
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921)
18 1/2 x 13 1/16 in.
(47 x 33.2 cm)
IHL Cat. #2102
 
Festival of Dolls (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
Shiizuoka Shōka (attributed by one source to this unknown artist)
printing company: Tokyo Seibidō
14 3/8 x 7 7/16 in.
(36.5 x 18.9 cm) 
IHL Cat. #2393

Bijin Reading (untitled)
from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
Ikeda Shōen (1886-1917)
14 7/16 x 7 5/16 in.
(36.7 x 18.6 cm)
IHL Cat. #2394



Two Women with Teapot and Books (untitled)
Two Women with Teapot and Books (untitled)
from an unknown magazine
c. 1920-early 1930s

Noguchi Kōgai (c. 1899-1930s)
 12 1/2 x 6 3/4 in.
(31.8 x 17.1 cm)
IHL Cat. #1629 

Woman with Letter (untitled)
 8 1/2 x 5 9/16 in.
(21.6 x 14.1 cm)
IHL Cat. #1628  

Woman on a Train (untitled)
 8 3/4 x 5 9/16 in.
(22.2 x 14.1 cm))
IHL Cat. #1630 

Woman and Billboard (untitled)
9 1/2 x 5 5/16 in.
(24.1 x 13.5 cm)
IHL Cat. #1631 


 Woman with Knife (untitled)
9 1/16 x 5 13/16 in.
(23 x 14.8 cm)
IHL Cat. #1632
 
Magazine Illustration: Bijin threading a needle
Bijin Threading a Needle (untitled) from an unknown magazine,
c. 1915-early 1920s

Migita Toshihide (1863-1925)
11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in.
(28.3 x 22.2 cm)‎ 
IHL Cat. #1793

 Magazine Illustration: Bijin and Cherry Tree
Bijin and Cherry Tree (untitled) from an unknown magazine,
c. 1915-early 1930s

Hirezaki Eihō (1880-1968)
printing company: Seibidō
14 x 7 3/8 in.
(35.6 x 18.7 cm)
IHL Cat. #1794

Bijin at the seashore (untitled)
printing company: Tokyo Seibidō
14 1/2 x 7 7/16 in.
(36.8 x 18.9 cm) 
 IHL Cat. #2386


  Bijin bowed in prayer (untitled)
Bijin Bowed in Prayer (untitled) from and unknown magazine,
c. 1915-early 1930s

Kondō Shiun (act. c. 1915–1940)
11 7/8 x 8 13/16 in.
(30.2 x 22.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1797
 
10 3/8 x 7 1/4 in.
(26.4 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1800


 Bijin Adjusting Hair (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early1930s
Terashima Shimei (1892-1975)
11 13/16 x 8 5/8 in. 
(30 x 21.9 cm)
IHL Cat. #1868


Bijin Holding Magazine (untitled) from the magazine Kōdan zasshi (published by Kōbunkan)
1915-early1930s
attributed to Morikawa Seiha
森川青玻 (?-?)
(signature of this unknown artist trimmed from image)
13 1/2 x 6 15/16 in.
(34.3 x 17.6 cm)
IHL Cat. #1867

 Bijin Lifting Screen (untitled)
likely an illustration for a modern version of The Pillow Book completed in 1002 by the Heian period court lady Sei Shōnagon
from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
Uemura Shōen (1875–1949)
14 5/16 x 7 1/4 in.
(36.4 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #2384

Autumn [Exhibition] in Ueno
(Aki no Ueno) appearing in Fujokai (Woman's sphere),
Vol. 22, No. 4
October 1920
Publisher: Dōbunkan; later Fujokaisha 
Kurihara Gyokuyō (1883-1922)
 11 5/8 x 8 in.
(29.5 x 20.3 cm)
IHL Cat. #1875

Bijin Leaning on Railing (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
Masuda Gyokujō (1881-1955)
14 3/16 x 7 7/16 in.
(36 x 18.9 cm)
IHL Cat. #2383


Bijin with flower arrangement (untitled)
printing company: Tokyo Seibidō
14 1/16 x 7 5/16 in.
(35.7 x 18.6 cm)
IHL Cat. #2389

Bijin and paper lantern (untitled)
printing company: Tokyo Seibidō
14 7/16 x 7 7/16 in.
(36.7 x 18.9 cm)
IHL Cat. #2387

Bijin Gazing into Garden (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early1930s
Kitani Chigusa (1890-1945)
14 x 7 1/2 in.
(35.6 x 19.1 cm)
IHL Cat. #1344


Bijin Gazing into Garden (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early1930s
Kitani Chigusa (1890-1945)
 14 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.
(36.8 x 18.7 cm)
IHL Cat. #2385

 

讀み人 yomibito
from an unknown magazine
January 1, 1929
Kitani Chigusa (1890-1947)
[verso: 木谷千種女史筆
from the brush of Miss Kotani Chigusa]
publisher: Fukuoka nichinichi shinbun
printer: 古屋熊三郎
10 9/16 x 9 5/8 in.
(26.8 x 24.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #2112 
 
Bijin with Pink Bow, (untitled)
from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early1930s
unread artist
11 3/8 x 8 11/16 in.
(28.9 x 22.1 cm)
IHL Cat. #1796
 
Two Western Women on Deck Lounge Chairs, (untitled)
from an unknown magazine, 1919
unread artist
7 13/16 x 10 3/16 in.
(19.8 x 25.9 cm)
 IHL Cat. #1792


 たそがるゝ丘 (Tasogare no oka) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
12 1/16 x 8 9/16 in.
(30.6 x 21.7 cm)
IHL Cat. #1799
 
Bijin in Brown-stripped Kimono with Three Ginko Leaves (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
11 13/16 x 9 5/8 in.
(30 x 24.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1877

Bijin Looking Askance, (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
Kitano Tsunetomi (1880-1947)
9 3/16 x 6 7/16 in.
(23.3 x 16.4 cm)
IHL Cat. # 1791

Bijin in Green Kimono with Shimadamage Hairstyle (untitled) from an unknown magazine,
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
11 9/16 x 8 1/2 in.
(29.4 x 21.6 cm)
 IHL Cat. #1865


Bijin with Parasol and Mount Fuji
(untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
13 1/8 x 7 1/4 in.
(33.3 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1863

Bijin in Blue Kimono with Parasol (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early1930s
anonymous artist
13 1/8 x 7 1/8 in.
(33.3 x 18.1 cm)
IHL Cat. #1864

Bijin in Purple Kimono with Pagoda in Background (untitled) from an unknown magazine,
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
11 1/8 x 8 1/8 in.
(28.3 x 20.6 cm)
IHL Cat. #1866

Bijin and Man with Orange Lanterns,
(untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
11 5/8 x 8 9/16 in.
(29.5 x 21.7 cm)
IHL Cat. #1872


 
『御用盜異聞』のお龍
(Goyōtō ibun) 2nd chapter in the novel Kurama Tengu by the author Osaragi Jirō (1897-1925)
1924-1925
unread artist
13 5/8 x 7 1/4 in.
(34.6 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1870
 
Bijin in Kimono Touching Up Lipstick (untitled) from an unknown magazine,
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
13 3/4 x 7 1/4 in.
(34.9 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1869
 
『暴風雨前後』の靜子 
(Storm all around Shizuko),
from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
13 1/2 x 7 1/4 in.
(34.3 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1873
 
Bijin with Falling Cherry Blossoms
(untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
13 1/2 x 7 1/4 in.
(34.3 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1876


Bijin in Purple Kimono with Sake Cup and Cherry Tree (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread artist
13 1/2 x 7 1/4 in.
(34.3 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #1874

Bijin with White Chrysanthemums (untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unread signature and seal of artist
printing company:
Tokyo Seibidō
14 7/16 x 7 1/4 in.
(36.7 x 18.4 cm)
IHL Cat. #2382

Bijin in Front of Shoji 
(untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unidentified artist, signed 百合
printing company:
Tokyo Seibidō
14 3/8 x 7 3/8 in.
(36.5 x 18.7 cm)
IHL Cat. #2391

Bijin in Front of Citrus Branch 
(untitled) from an unknown magazine
c. 1915-early 1930s
unidentified artist, partial signature 古うけ
14 5/8 x 7 5/16 in.
(37.1 x 18.6 cm)
IHL Cat. #2392 


 
No. 4 from the series One Hundred Figures of Beauties Wearing Takasago Yukatas,
c. 1931
Takasagosome Yukatabijin Hyakusugata
高砂染浴衣美人百姿 (其四)
Itō Shinsui (1898-1972)
[color offset lithograph
 employing the Huebner-Blesitein (HB) "new art of press platemaking by Photo-Composing"]
publisher: Kisendō
image: 12 1/8 x 8 3/8 in.
sheet: 14 13/16 x 9 3/4 in.
IHL Cat. #2135

Flower: A Modern Meiji Beauty,
a supplement to the magazine Shufu no Tomo
(The Housewife's Friend)
主婦之友附録 明治風俗美人「花」
January 1, 1935
Yamakawa Shūhō (1898-1944)
image: 41  x 9 3/8 in.
sheet: 42 1/2 x  9 15/16 in.
IHL Cat. #2103 
 
Snow: A Modern Meiji Beauty,
a supplement to the magazine Shufu no Tomo
(The Housewife's Friend)
主婦之友附録 明治風俗美人「雪」
January 1, 1935
Ito Shinsui (1898-1972)
image: 41  x 9 3/8 in.
sheet: 42 1/2 x  9 15/16 in.
IHL Cat. #2104
 
Moon: A Modern Meiji Beauty, a supplement to the magazine The Housewife's Friend
The Moon: A Modern Meiji Beauty,
a supplement to the magazine Shufu no Tomo
(The Housewife's Friend)
主婦之友附録 明治風俗美人「月」
Janauary 1, 1935

Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1972)
image: 41  x 9 3/8 in.
sheet: 42 1/2 x  9 15/16 in.
IHL Cat. #2105

Installation view "Blooming of Japanese Modernism," Hibiya Library & Museum
June-August 2018
Source: "Young Moderns: Taisho-Era Design at the Hibiya Library & Museum" by Alan Gleason appearing in Artscape Japan, a monthly English web magazine.
The female figure had been a prominent motif in popular Japanese art at least since the Edo heyday of Bijinga, the "beautiful women" genre of ukiyo-e, but it gained special cachet during the Taisho, when women were finally achieving acceptance as full-fledged members of Japanese society -- especially as consumers. This period has sometimes been described as "the age of women and children" because for the first time, those segments of the population were deemed worthy marketing targets. Women's magazines and children's picture books proliferated...

Bijinga Kuchi-e and Taishō-era Popular Magazines

The period 1914 through 1921 has been called by Kendall Brown the "'golden age' of bijin kuchi'e”.1 During this golden age (and continuing into the 1930s), thousands of inserted pictures (kuchi-e), mostly printed using metal plate lithography and photo-offset printing, were commissioned from both well-known and little-known artists by publishers of mass-market popular culture magazines (taishū zasshi). The vast majority of these illustrations depicted beautiful women (bijin) and they appeared as inserted frontispieces, illustrations to serialized novels, advertisements, promotional supplements, as well as cover illustrations. 

While employing new technology, the use of inserted pictures in both magazines and novels during this golden age was a continuation of the use of woodblock-printed multi-color illustrations in magazines and novels of the prior late Meiji period, c. 1890-1912, during which time the use of traditional woodblock printing technology for mass reproduction dramatically declined.2 


Unfortunately most of the bijin kuchi-e found for sale today, as with all of this collection’s prints, have become separated from the original magazines they were inserted in, making it impossible to determine what they may have been illustrating. In collecting these affordable prints, expect to see a characteristic tri-fold as many of the prints were larger than the dimensions of the magazines they were inserted into. 





The Magazines


Bijin kuchi-e appeared in both general audience magazines, such as Bungei kurabu 文芸俱楽部 (Literary Club, 1895-1933, publisher Hakubunkan), Kōdan kurabu 講談倶楽部 (Storytelling Club, 1911-1962, publisher Dai Nihon Yūbenkai Kōdansha) and Kingu キング (King, 1925-1943, publisher Dai Nihon Yūbenkai Kōdansha), Japan’s first million selling magazine, and magazines specifically targeted at girls and women such as Jogaku Sekai 女学世界 (Student Girls’ World, 1901-1925, publisher Hakubunkan), Fujokai 婦女界 (Woman's Sphere, 1910-1943, 1948-1950, 1952 Dōbunkan; later, Fujokai), Fujin sekai 婦人世界 (Women's World, 1906-1933, publisher Jitsugyō no Nihonsha) and Shufu no tomo 主婦之友 (The Housewife's Friend, 1917-2008, publisher Tokyo kaseikai; later, Shufu no tomosha ), whose monthly circulation was to reach 200,000 in 1927 and grow to over 1,000,000 in the mid-1930s.3 Between 1911 and 1930 over 200 women's magazines and journals began publication, although not all featured bijin kuchi-e.4 


The Subject Matter of Women's Magazines

While the Taishō era (1912-1926) brought with it material benefits and status improvement for many women and saw the emergence of the "new woman" (atarashii onna), mass market magazines targeted for women had an ambivalent attitude about these changes. 
        
Source: Yumeji Modern: Designing the Everyday in Twentieth-Century Japan, Nozomi Naoi, University of Washington Press, 2020, p. 102.
The types of articles then featured in women's magazines reveal the inconsistency between traditional roles for women and women's liberation. In 1920, for example, Fujin kōr
on (Ladies forum) published articles such as "What If Women Were Allowed in Politics?," "The Unavoidable Need for Contraception and Our Nation," and "Bad Wife, Dumb Mother" (a play on the expression ryōsai kenbo, or "good wife, wise mother"). That same year articles in Shufu no tomo (Housewife's companion) included "What Maidens Expect in Marriage," "Words of Advice for Parents: How to Ensure Your Child Enters the Best Middle School or Girls School," and "Reorganizing a Wedding Ceremony and Banquet." While feminist movements were becoming active during the first decades of the twentieth century, the above sampling of articles is indicative of what Frederick [Sarah Frederick in "Girls' Magazines and the Creation of Shōjo Identities"] describes as the contradictory content found in these publications: "They defined women's roles - housewife, school-girl, mother - in newly restrictive ways, but they also generated new possibilities for different identities."

Of course serialized novels and stories (some written by the magazine's readers) were a constant and, being commercial ventures, women's magazines “touted the newest fashions, household goods, and cosmetics” directing their readers to the department stores where these items could be bought.5

In describing the typical themes for many of the woodblock illustrations appearing in popular women's magazines in the late Meiji period, Julia Meech-Pekarik speaks of the "romantic introspection" of the women depicted, going on to say, "The stories these prints illustrate typically center on a series of incredibly fragile and beautiful women from good families who confront personal tragedy with pride and fortitude. Some are driven to avenge the death of a family member, while others commit suicide rather than compromise themselves in love."In looking at these Taishō era illustrations we see the persistence of these themes.


Source: Dangerous Beauties and Dutiful Wives: Popular Portraits of Women in Japan, 1905-1925, Kendall Brown, Dover Publications, Inc., 2011, p. IX.

In Taishō kuchi-e, bijin often look out a window to a nearby landscape or to gaze at plants, pose in front of flora, or, in a few cases, pick flowers or tend them. In nearly every image there is a seasonal reference so that the woman stands for the season and for the appreciation of it. Because the clothing of the bijin is linked to the season, the relationship is harmonious. These images invoke an ideology of naturalness by which the particular construct of feminine beauty, and its associations, are naturalized - seen as existing without contrivance. Nature also may function allegorically, so that fresh snow symbolizes purity and cherry blossoms evoke transience. The typical downward cast of the eyes suggests a gaze inward, as is to imply that the lessons of the season are being internalized by the bijin, who is, fundamentally, reflective. This quality of "romantic introspection" to suggest personality and an inner life was carried over from Meiji kuchi-e, where it often expressed melancholy or world weariness.


Increasing Literacy and Economic Security for Women

The great increase in literacy among women, ushered in by the Ministry of Education’s 1872 compulsory education ruling, specifying that both girls and boys should receive elementary education, along with the growth of private and missionary schools, coupled with improved economic situations for many women in the cities, “allowed an increasing number of women to purchase magazines.”7


Teaching Young Girls to Write, c. 1915

While the targeted women’s magazines initially looked to middle and upper class women for readership, they also found an audience with working-class women and women living in rural areas. And, while the vast majority of readers were women, these magazines also attracted curious men.8  


The Artists

From the best-known artists of the day, such as the painter and print designer Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1972) and the painter and shin hanga artist Itō Shinsui (1898-1972), to artists working in relative obscurity, the large number of designs required for magazines demanded a large pool of artists to draw from. Both more traditional nihonga (Japanese style) and yōga (Western style) painters found work as illustrators.

As noted by Kendall Brown and other sources, magazine illustrations provided fertile ground for women artists, providing a “critical social space, as well as an economic base.”9 Among the female artists creating bijin kuchi-e, perhaps the two best known are the nihonga style painters Uemura Shōen (1875-1949) and Shima Seien (1892-1970), examples of whose magazine illustrations are shown immediately below. Another women nihonga artist, who as a thirteen year old was sent to study Western style painting in Seattle for two years, and who is represented in this collection, is Kitani Chigusa 木谷千種 (1895-1947), an example of whose work is shown above.10


Artists received relatively low pay for creating an illustration, so they had to work quickly. The artist Hirezaki Eihō 鰭崎英朋 (1880-1968), represented by several prints in this collection, noted that it took him from one to five hours to create an illustration for a magazine. The pay received for designing these illustrations varied according to the artist’s popularity and the magazine commissioning the work. Kendall Brown cites fees being paid during the late Meiji and early Taishō period of three to fifteen yen per illustration, a relatively low amount.11 Despite the modest fees paid, the number of illustrations required by these very popular magazines could provide significant income for many artists. 

The Evolution of Printing Technology and Taishō era Kuchi-e

By the end of the Meiji era (1867-1912), woodblock printing as a means of duplicating text and illustrations for mass distribution was near dead and relegated to the niche markets of making copies of classic ukiyo-e designs and producing deluxe prints targeted at collectors. In a modernized Japan, woodblock printing was considered old-hat by the public, enticed by newer technologies such as lithography and the realism of photography. 


Source: Dangerous Beauties and Dutiful Wives: Popular Portraits of Women in Japan, 1905-1925, Kendall Brown, Dover Publications, Inc., 2011, p. XV.

To fully appreciate Taishō kuchi-e, we need not only know their literary content and social context but also understand the technologies used in their production.  These technologies were not simply expedient means of mass production, but, in fact, were part of a visual revolution that included the desire to reproduce perfectly the images created by designers, the skilled artistry of master printers, and the creation of luxury prints meant to function as de facto works of art...

The Japanese had used stone lithography since 1874, and copperplate intaglio printing soon afterward.  Zinc plate lithographic processes were deployed in the 1880s and 1890s, with photographic collotype printing developed around 1890.  By 1902 three-color (red, yellow, blue) chromolithography was deployed, beginning in Bungei Kurabu.  Kiyokata adapted it for his kuchi-e in 1905.  In that same year, the Marinono rotary magazine printing machine was imported to Japan, allowing for much faster printing.  Soon after, the American Rubel rotary press using a rubber sheet was also imported, producing high-quality color printing even on the coarse paper commonly used for mass-circulation magazines. A version of the rotary offset press was manufactured in Japan in 1913, making the technology more affordable.  From around 1914 planographic offset lithography using lighter zinc and aluminum plates, rather than heavy, brittle stone plates, made printing easier and cheaper.12  

During the early Taishō era , the production of these bijin kuchi-e lithographs was similar to the production process for woodblock prints, involving an artist/designer, under contract to a publisher, who created a design, often a painting, that was hand-copied by artisans onto a metal plate, one plate for each color (analogous to the use of multiple carved woodblocks, essentially one for each color, in the traditional woodblock print-making process) and then printed. Later on, the hand-drawing process would be replaced by faster photomechanical processes.

For prints in this collection that show the name of the printing firm, usually printed in extremely small type near the edge of a print and shown as enlargements below, the most frequently appearing is that of Tokyo Seibidō Rotary Offset Printing 東京精美堂ロータリーオフセット印刷 , possibly associated with the publisher Hakubunkan.



The Demise of Bijin Kuchi-e

While the bijin genre, buoyed by the shin hanga movement and its combining of traditional ukiyo-e motifs and traditional woodblock printing methods, coupled with the techniques of modern Western painting, (an alluring combination for foreign collectors), continued well into the 1930s, by the mid-1920s bijin kuchi-e were in decline, as explained by Kendall Brown. 

Source: Dangerous Beauties and Dutiful Wives: Popular Portraits of Women in Japan, 1905-1925, Kendall Brown, Dover Publications, Inc., 2011, p. XV.

It is hard to pinpoint any one reason for the decline of the genre, but bijin kuchi-e well may have been the victim of their own earlier success. Once nearly every magazine featured them, bijin kuchi-e became overly familiar and their appearance marked a magazine as old-fashioned and unfashionable.... [B]y the last years of Taishō, ending in December 1926, bijin kuchi-e were considered staid at best, retrograde at worst.
 

1 Dangerous Beauties and Dutiful Wives: Popular Portraits of Women in Japan, 1905-1925, Kendall Brown, Dover Publications, Inc., 2011, p. xvii.
2 For more information on woodblock kuchi-e see Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections of Meiji Culture, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii Press, 2000
3 Circulation figures taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shufu_no_Tomo#:~:text=Tomo%20ceased%20publication.-,Circulation,circulation%20about%208%20million%20copies and Women's Magazines and the Democratization of Print and Reading Culture in Interwar Japan, Shiho Maeshima, University of British Columbia, August 2016, p. 4. [A Doctoral Thesis which may be found online at https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/24/items/1.0314161
4 Intersections (an electronic journal Australian National University)  http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue11/ishii.html
5The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization, Julia Meech-Pekarik, Weatherhill, 1986, p. 217.
6Graphic Propaganda: Japan’s Creation of China in the Prewar Period, 1894-1937, a dissertation, Scott E. Mudd, University of Hawai’i, August 200, p. 64. https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/handle/10125/11659
7 "Around 1905, perhaps related to the wave of patriotic fervor that swept through Japan at the time of the war with Russia, school attendance figures shot up to nearly universal levels for both boys and girls for the first time." - Source: "Who Can't Read and Write? Illiteracy in Meiji Japan", Richard Rubinger, appearing in Monumenta Nipponica, Summer, 2000, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Summer, 2000), Sophia University, pp. 163- 198; quote on p. 182 Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2668426
8 See Gender, Consumerism and Women’s Magazines in Interwar Japan, Barbara Sato, Routledge Handbook of Japanese Media, February 2018
9 op. cit. Dangerous Beauties and Dutiful Wives, p. XVI.
10 For a biography of this artist see the website of Kagedo Japanese Art http://kagedo.com/wordpress/g/kitani-chigusa-painting-of-a-beauty-contemplating-her-reflection/
11 op. cit. Dangerous Beauties and Dutiful Wives, p. XVI.
12 In 1914 the first offset litho printing in Japan was carried out by Shōsandō (Mizuno Gukichi). It had been invented in the United States in 1906 and then developed in Germany. It allows three-color printing, a clear impression even on poor paper, and economy in the use of printing ink. [Source: Being Modern in Japan, Culture and Society from the 1910s to the 1930s, Ed. Elise K. Tipton and John Clark (Appendix, Chronology, Japanese Printing, Publishing, and Prints, 1860s-1930s, John Clark)

last revision:
10/19/2020
10/13/2020
10/5/2020 created
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