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Combing Hair (Kamisuki - 髪梳き)

Identifier: 1929 Kotondo combing hair

"The most striking aspect of this imageis the almost luminous contour lines of the young woman's body, all the more obvious when set against the dark blue of the background, swirling patterns of which have been created through the circular motion of the baren. Together with the soft flushed colour of the young woman's skin, Kotondo's subject appears as if to float within the picture plane. A similar effect is created by Shinsui, for example, with his nude from the series Twelve forms of new beauties..."

Quoted from: The New Wave: Twentieth-century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, p. 199 with a colored illustration.

The blocks were carved by Itō and printed by Komatsu Wasakichi.


"...Kotondo adopted the print composition and style of Shinsui's Early Summer Bath, but in doing so he emphasized the volume of the nude woman by exaggerating her contour lines and subduing the goma-zuri background. In sum, Kotondo turned Shinsui's daring play of form and line into a striking but essentially conventional image. It is the woman's body and lustrous hair, rather than the artist's or printer's technique, that captures our attention. Yet the obvious reference to Shinsui's work belies any simple decorative interpretation of Kotondo's print."

Quoted from: Shin-Hanga, New Prints in Modern Japan, p. 63 accompanied by a small black and white illustration.


Kendall Brown in Color Woodcut International: Japan, Britain, and America in the Early Twentieth Century (p. 22) wrote about this print and this artist: "Some of the tensions within Shin hanga, and within Japanese society in this period, are captured in two prints made around 1930 and published by Watanabe's competitors. In Combing the Hair..., Torii Kotondo takes a retrospective approach to contemporary Japanese women. Although cribbing motifs from Goyo and Shinsui, Kotondo's real models are the late nineteenth century book illustrations that portray dreamy young heroines lost in their own silent worlds."


"The suggestion of flesh tones and the depiction of bodily form has now become of interest to some of the Japanese artists and is sometimes ingenuously used, as in this print. The background effect was achieved through a circular motion in printing." Quoted from: Modern Japanese Prints by Dorothy Blair. This entry mentioned above notes that there were 13 blocks, 18 superimposed printings and a total edition of 300.



1) In 鳥居言人 Torii Kotondo, Gallery Beniya, 1995, p. 27, no. 18.

2) In black and white in 近代日本美人画展 : 伝統木版画を支えた作家たち Exhibition of Modern Japanese Beauties: Meiji, Taishō, Shōwa, Riccar Art Museum, 1982, n.p., no. 86.

3) In Color Woodcut International: Japan, Britain, and America in the Early Twentieth Century, essay by Kendall Brown, Chazen Museum of Art, 2006.

4) In black and white as #129 in Modern Japanese Prints by Dorothy Blair, 1977 reprint.


There may also be another copy of this print in the Kagono Art Museum.

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