The Japanese painter and printmaker Ishikawa Toraji, 1875-1964 created a series of ten voluptuous nudes title "Ten Types of Female Nudes". The Japanese authorities banned the series for its "pornographic" nature.
First Publication: July 2009
Latest Update: April 2014
Ishikawa Toraji was mainly a painter. Collectors of 20th century Japanese prints know him for a fine landscape print series showing Mount Fuji and for several other woodblock prints, but mainly for a series of ten buxom female nudes in a style not seen before on Japanese art prints.
In 1934 the artist created this series of ten female nudes. According to Friedrich B. Schwan, the author of a handbook about Japanese woodblock prints (written in German: see literature reference below), the series was immediately banned by censorship for its "pornographic" nature.
The woodblock series shows somewhat buxom Japanese girls in the nude. Nine prints show the girls in the privacy of their home. And one shows a naked dancer in high heels, obviously performing striptease in a bar or theater. All girls wear a modern hair-style that was typical for young girls in the 1920s and 1930s all around the world, including Japan.
The nudes depicted by Ishikawa Toraji represent a type of young women that the Japanese then called moga, a malapropism of the English word modern girl. It was a new type of young Japanese girls influenced by Western fashion and a Western image of women. Independent, modern, fashionable - in a nutshell, quite the opposite of the traditional role of Japanese women as a docile supplement in a male dominated society.
These nude images have a certain erotic character - due to the voluptuous shapes of the ladies and the intimate atmosphere. But a classification as pornographic can only make today's generation smile at best. The series Ten Types of Female Nudes (in Japanese: Rajo Jushu no Uchi) should be seen as an attempt of the artist to display the old traditional subject of bijin (Japanese for 'beautiful women') in a modern context and in the style of the shin hanga art movement.
In the long history of Japanese woodblock prints, this series is a remarkable and charming interlude of an old subject displayed in a modern style. And the 10 prints reflect the changes of the Japanese society in the 20th century.
Author: Dieter Wanczura
Friedrich B. Schwan, "Handbuch Japanischer Holzschnitt", 2003, IUDICIUM Verlag, Postfach 701067, D-81310 München, ISBN 3-89129-749-1.
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