Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Thirty Six Good and Evil Beauties (Zen-aku Sanju-roku Bijin) Woman by a Jetty, 1873. Oban.
The Thirty-six Good and Evil Beauties is probably Kunichika’s finest large series and certainly the best bijin series of his career. The quality of the printing is outstanding, the drawing is fluid and original and the designs bristle with invention and startling use of colour and pattern. Each print from the series takes a famous woman of history and portrays her beneath a cartouche explaining her story. Some of these characters are warlike, some evil and vain and some are pious or devoted. What is interesting historically is how Kunichika presents women as individuals and not archetypes. This is at variance to the traditional bijin portraits of pliable or available females and chimes with Yoshitoshi’s series on similar themes such as Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners from 1888.
The drawing and design in this piece is outstanding. The strut of the jetty offsets the figure, who stares at us from the print with knowing eyes, a scroll between her teeth. Again, Kunichika pictures a strong woman as an individual, theatrical perhaps, but also knowable.
A fine print, rare and in good condition. Some surface wear to the lower half. Impression and colour are fine. Full-size.