Tsunetomi Kitano had made himself a name as a great artist of bijin-ga, images of beautiful women. He was a dominating figure in the art scene of Osaka in the first half of the twentieth century.
Tsunetomi Kitano was born in Kanazawa Prefecture under the real name of Tomitaro.
In 1901 he moved to Osaka and became a student of Ineno Toshitsune to study Nihon-ga - Japanese-style painting and traditional printmaking. Toshitsune had been a pupil of the great Meiji artist Yoshitoshi. Tsunetomi Kitano had a job as an illustrator for a local Osaka newspaper. This gave him a secure income.
Tsunetomi soon became the dominant painter and printmaker for bijinga - images of beautiful women - in Osaka. Kitano had developed a style of his own - traditional and modern at the same time. The woman designs of Tsunetomi Kitano are reduced to the essentials. His art prints are the opposite of lush decorations. Somehow they look like the artist wanted to save on color and pencil strokes.
Maybe this is the reason why these prints are so appealing to art lovers of our time.
In 1924 Tsunetomi Kitano established an art school and publishing firm with the name of Hakuyodo. Among his students were Chigusa Kotani and Shima Seien.
No doubt, collectors of Japanese prints know him usually only for one print, his contribution to Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu. The print is known as Heroine Umekawa or Woman in Snow. However this is not the only woodcut print by the artist. But all others are indeed rather rare. Here are a few more that we sold since 2001.
Author: Dieter Wanczura