Shinsui, Ito (1898 - 1972), "Bathing in Early Summer (Pre-Earthquake)"
|Title||Bathing in Early Summer (Pre-Earthquake)|
|Medium||Original Limited Edition Japanese Woodblock Print|
|Series Title||New Twelve Images of Beauties|
|Publisher||S. Watanabe Color Print Co.|
|Reference No||Female Image: Cat. #37; pg. 55; The New Wave, Cat. 246; All Works I. Shinsui: Cat. #33; pg. 58; Fresh Impressions: Cat. #28; pg. 99|
|Size||17 -1/4 x 10 -1/2 "|
|Condition||Very fine, with superb colors.|
Notes: Dated and signed; upper right Taisho juichinen haru Shinsui saku ('Taisho 11 (1922), Spring, work by Shinsui'). Rectangular artist's seal reads: "Ito". Circular publisher's seal of Watanabe Shozaburo in lower right. Edition stamp on reverse reads: Nihyaku mai kagiri zeppan dai hyakuyonban. Embossing (blind-stamping) throughout the female figure.
This design is part of the series, Twelve Forms of New Beauties, which was issued from June 1922 to early 1923. One print was published every month in editions of 200. As Shinsui's first series of the female image, its aim was, as the title suggests, to represent a new form of feminine beauty as advocated by the shin hanga movement, and by the artist's own ideals. His lyrical depictions of women were based on what he believed was the illustration of the essential realism of the female form. As he is known to have said during the critiques of his own students' work, "It is bad to just 'draw' the subject. Instead look carefully to bring out that which cannot be seen in the outer appearance of the figure".
"Bathing in Early Summer", is noteworthy as the only full-length nude in the entire print series. It is also unusual in the energetic application of the blue lines of the baren, not only on the background of the print, but also over the torso and hair of the female subject, which has added to the expressive quality of the print. Shinsui defined the contour lines of the figure through the use of blind-printing to create a more natural impression of a woman emerging from her bath. The printer used the baren to express the swirling lines in the background that are suggestive of heat and steam.
The original blocks and existing inventory were all destroyed in the aftermath of the 1923 earthquake and fires. The artists' works after 1924, rarely capture the tactile quality of his earlier designs, which can be seen quite clearly in the overall efforts taken in the 'baren' marks throughout the background. A thicker paper was also used by the S. Watanabe Color Print Co. for the pre-earthquake images.
Tadasu Watanabe states, "When Shinsui created woodblock prints, he did not draw original paintings, but drew a sketch first. He worked for a pure abstract form. We cut the key-block in accordance with the sketch and pulled a sumi ink line print first. Shinsui then added watercolors on the sumi print to make a color-draft. Based on the color-draft, we selected eight to twelve colors to set the numbers of color blocks. An engraver cut a set of blocks accordingly and following the color-draft, a printer completed a first test print before the final decision on the total color plates was made. After watching the last process, Shinsui used to come to the studio of our shop and instructed us as to the tone of colors. The colors on the prints inevitably came out in a different tone from that of the hand-painted color-draft. We got together to incorporate Shinsui's ideas into the final stage, resulting in the birth of a creative woodblock print." - All the Woodblock Prints of Ito Shinsui
Provenance: This example bears the distinctive seal of the celebrated Western collector James D. Tobin. Tobin assembled arguably the world's most important collection of 20th-century Japanese prints. It was dispersed in the 1980s, with a large portion of the collection entering many of the finest institutions.