Kunichika, 36 Good and Evil Beauties - Kiyoshi Hikariin

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Thirty-six Good and Evil Beauties: Kiyoshi Hikariin, 1876. Oban.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

The series Thirty-six Good and Evil Beauties is by far Kunichika’s best. Groundbreaking in so many ways, one gets the feeling that the artist here is being dragged along by events - unable to resist the pull of history. 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 with the traditional bijin portraits of pliable or available females and chimes with Yoshitoshi’s later series on similar themes such as Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners from 1888.

In this print, Kunichika shows a princess - Kiyoshi Hikariin - in an act of vengeance in front of a folding screen. These prints are rare and the meanings behind the images are often either lost or else very difficult to find out. The busy, cursive script is now lost to us and it is not possible to translate it.

A fine print from Kunichika’s finest series. These prints are very rare and very hard to come by… slipping between the gaps of the valuable and the unconsidered. This piece is remarkably full sized and with intact marginalia (which give details of Kunichika’s address!) Colour, impression and condition are all fine.

Published by Morimoto Junzaburo.

37.5cm x 25cm.