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Magazine Illustration: Bijin threading a needle (untitled)

Hirezaki Eihō (1880-1968)
 

 Japanese Chromolithograph and/or Photo-Offset Print

Magazine Illustration: Bijin threading a needle (untitled)

from an unidentified magazine

by Migita Toshihide, c. 1915-1920

Hirezaki Eihō (1880-1968)


IHL Cat. #1793

About This Print

An untitled illustration insert (the print has the characteristic three horizontal folds) for an unidentified magazine, likely issued around 1920.  The image reminds of me of the below print by Kitagawa Utamaro (early 1750s - 1806) titled A Wife of the Lower Rank (Gebon no nyōbō), from the series A Guide to Women's Contemporary Styles (Tōsei onna fûzoku tsû), c. 1801-1802.



Taishō Bijinga Kuchi-e
Source: Dangerous Beauties and Dutiful Wives: Popular Portraits of Women in Japan, 1905-1925, Kendall Brown, Dover Publications, Inc., 2011, p. XVI.
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 - see 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 faze 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.

How Long Did It Take to Design a Kuchi-e?
Source: Dangerous Beauties and Dutiful Wives: Popular Portraits of Women in Japan, 1905-1925, Kendall Brown, Dover Publications, Inc., 2011, p. XVI.

Artist's received relatively low pay for creating an illustration, so they had to work quickly.  The artist Hirezaki Eihō (1880-1968) noted that it took him two hours to create an illustration for the popular mass-market magazine Bungei kurabu.

The Printing Technologies of Taishō-era Kuchi-e
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 print 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 aluminium plates, rather than heavy, brittle stone plates, made printing easier and cheaper.  When the Ichida Offset Printing Company started business in 1916, polychrome photographic offset printing became popular, causing a further decline in lithographic printing.


Print Details

 IHL Catalog #1793
 Title/Description untitled - Bijin threading a needle
 Series
 Artist 
 Migita Toshihide (1863-1925)
 Signature 
 not signed
 Seal
年英 Toshihide
 Date c. 1915-1920
 Publisher unknown
 Printer unknown
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - removed from magazine; uneven trimming along right margin; small paper loss in uppper left corner; small tear bottom center
 Miscellaneous 
 Genre kuchi-e; bijinga
 Format 
 H x W Paper 11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in. (28.3 x 22.2 cm)
 H x W Image 11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in. (28.3 x 22.2 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Reference Literature
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