Tinkle of the bell (1934)
These sumptuous nudes were the work of Ishikawa Toraji (1975-1964). They are from a set of ten nude prints called Ten types of female nude published in 1934, when he was nearly sixty. They combine the aesthetics and woodblock printing technique of the classical period with a more European approach to anatomy. Here, a ripe young woman teases her dog with a bell.
Nine out of ten of the pictures feature women in domestic environments but this one is rather different as it features a dancer or, actually, a stripper. It is clear from the way the figure is lit that she is on stage.
Blue parrot (1934)
In this one there is a mixture of a traditional screen with nineteen thirties furniture and the exotica of a tiger skin.
At the bath (1934)
The prints, although far from explicit, were sensuous enough that the series was banned by the Japanese authorities. Here a young lady dries herself in a traditional bath, probably in a hot spring resort (onsen)
In complete contrast here we have a woman in a very modern bathroom. These bathroom pictures are reminiscent of those done by French nineteenth century artists who were, in turn, very influenced by Japanese prints.
Several of the women in this series have European, short, hair styles and these girls were known as moga (modern girl) in Japan at the time. Toraji visited both the US and Europe (he studied in France) from 1902 until 1903 so would have been exposed to a lot of western art, which had only started to be seen in Japan in the eighteen eighties.
Another reading girl and another animal, in this case a cat, in this one. The naturalistic physical shape of the women in this set of prints is obviously influenced by contemporary European representations of the nude and is far from the Japanese idealised form of earlier years.
Black cat (1934)
Another cat here, in this tactile-looking print. Toraji became very involved in the development of art education in Japan. In 1943 he became head of the Pacific Art School
A pair of very modern black stockings and more contemporary furniture feature in this print. She is reminiscent of one of Toulouse Lautrec's prostitutes. These pictures emerged during the shin hanga (new prints) period of Japanese art from about 1915 until 1940. It was driven, to a large extent, by foreign interest in Japanese prints and there were big exhibitions of shin hanga prints in Toledo in 1930 and 1936. After this, deteriorating relationships with the western powers saw this external market die away.
Springtime of life (1934)
Finally, we have a young lady admiring herself in the mirror. So, a splendid set of prints melding traditional Japanese woodcut technique with a European infused aesthetic.