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Verne Gallery - A Gallery of Japanese Prints and Paintings
You are here > Online Catalog > Ito Shinsui > Artist Biography

Shinsui was born with the name of Ito Hajime to a middle-class Tokyo family. In 1911, Hajime was given an apprenticeship in the drawing department of the Printing Company. Soon afterwards he was introduced to Kaburagi Kiyokata, the renowned painter, and became Kiyokata's student. It was Kiyokata that gave Hajime his artist's name, Shinsui. Ito Shinsui is one of the great names of the Shin Hanga art movement. He and Goyo were the two most important printmakers of bijin - beautiful young women during the Shin Hanga period. In 1952, shortly after World War II, the Japanese government declared the print “Washing The Hair” by Ito Shinsui an Intangible National Treasure.

During this time, Shinsui's studies were extremely difficult since he worked during the day and also attended night school. He was immersed in art and, despite the lack of sleep, was quite passionate about his studies. It was not long before his paintings were included in public exhibitions. In 1912 his painting was first shown by the Tatsumi gakai ('Southeast Painting Society') and later works were displayed by the Kyodokai ('Homeland Society'), the Nihon bijutsuin ('Japan art institute'), and in the government sponsored Bunten show.

When Shinsui was eighteen years old, his paintings were seen by the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo at an exhibition at Kiyokata's art school. Watanabe was especially interested in creating a woodblock print from Shinsui's painting Taikyo ('Before the mirror'). He obtained an introduction with Shinsui's teacher Kiyokata and asked for his permission to attempt this experimental print. Permission was granted.

Like Kawase Hasui or Shiro Kasamatsu, Shinsui Ito was approached by the publisher Watanabe to design prints for him. The collaboration between the two men lasted for several decades until 1960. Not all Ito Shinsui prints were published by Watanabe. Other publishers were Isetatsu, the Yomiuri Newspaper Company and Katsumura.

Shinsui was a master of bijinga - images of beautiful women in a sensual, refined, technically perfect and appealing manner. The artist's bijinga are marked by a frequent use of a light gray background and red or blue colors in the garment. Another favorite subject were landscape prints. Here is a list of important print series. - Eight Views of Lake Biwa - 1917-1918 - Twelve Figures of New Beauties - 1922-1923 - Collection of Modern Beauties - 1929-1931 - Twelve Views of Oshima - 1937-1938 - Three Views of Mount Fuji - 1938-1939 - Ten Views of Shinano - 1948

Museums:
Brooklyn Museum
Art Institute of Chicago
Carnegie Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ito Shinsui, Beauty and Summer Lantern

Ito Shinsui, Beauty Looking At Blossoms

Contemplating the Coming of Spring

Spring Breeze

Bijin (Beauty) - (Detail)

Ito Shinsui, Snowstorm

Washing the Hair

Bijin (Beauty) - (Symbols of the New Year)

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