Carnival Evening (1886) -- Henri Rousseau, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Japanese artist Hashiguchi Goyo (1880-1921) was trained to be a painter but became an expert printmaker instead, specializing in the field of bijin-ga or "beautiful women." His work fused classical style with newer European influences, including use of fully nude female figures instead of just traditional suggestions of nudity like bared shoulders or napes of necks. He also showed women with their hair completely undone, which represented another cultural breakthrough. Before this point in time, Japanese women in art had generally been shown only with hair gathered up in traditional buns; Goyo showed them in relaxed, personal moments with their hair loosely flowing, creating more of a sensual individuality.
Unfortunately, Goyo died at age forty-one of meningitis and many of his original woodblock templates were destroyed in the 1923 Tokyo earthquake. He was also quite fussy about the quality of his prints, so he didn't produce many during his lifetime. The ones that remain are beautifully vivid in color, and many of his female portraits remind me of the women in Junichiro Tanizaki's novels. Particularly this featured 1920 Woman Holding Lipstick, which makes me think of Tanizaki's The Makioka Sisters. Click here to view Goyo's images; actual Goyo prints are rare and therefore highly sought after -- and they're also reportedly forged quite often, so if you're ever lucky enough to possibly come across one, be careful.