Hashiguchi Goyō, Kamisuki (Combing the hair), a colour woodblock print
Taishō era, AD 1920
Goyō (1880-1921) started out as an illustrator using a variety of media other than woodblock printing. However, he later became a devotee of the bijinga (pictures of beautiful women) of Kitagawa Utamaro (died 1806) which led him to master traditional woodblock techniques. Between 1918 and his early death in 1921, he produced a small number of bijinga which, perhaps more than the work of any other twentieth-century Japanese print artist, recapture that blend of adoration, mysticism and detachment which characterized Utamaro's attitude to women.
As a craftsman, Goyō was a perfectionist. Following the practices of the new Sōsaku Hanga ('Creative Print') movement, he performed every part of the process of print production himself. In particular, as in this print, he revived the traditional Ukiyo-e tradition of the fine cutting of the black blocks to represent the intricacies of women's hair. The combing of the hair, part of a Japanese woman's very private toilette routine - in public the hair would only be seen swept up in a triple bun - was another of Utamaro's favourite subjects. To further focus the viewer's attention on the hair, Goyō depicts the girl in a simple bath-robe of soft blue against a silvery mica background.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)
L. Smith, The Japanese print since 1900: (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)