Itō Shinsui (伊東深水) (artist 02/04/1898 – 05/08/1972)



"Shinsui's introduction to print production came at age eleven when he went to work in the factory of the Tokyo Printing Company as an assistant typographer and lithographer. A year later, he was given an apprenticeship in the drawing section. Around this time he began formal study with Kaburagi Kiyokata (1879-1973), who gave him the art name Shinsui. At age fourteen he began exhibiting paintings with the southeast Painting Society (Tatsumi Gakai) and later with the Homeland Society (Kyōdokai), formed by Kiyokata's students. Beginning in 1914 he supported himself by illustrating newspapers, magazines, and popular novels in many different media. By age twenty, he was exhibiting in the Bunten and later the Teiten exhibitions, where his submissions garnered several high-profile prizes. He established a painting academy in 1927. By 1931 more than one hundred students were enrolled in his Clear Peak Painting Academy (Rohō Gakuju).

Shinsui continued to paint and design prints after World War II. The Commission for the Protection of Cultural Properties (Bunkazai Hōgō Iinkai) recognized his contributions to the visual arts in 1952. In 1958 Shinsui was appointed to the Japan Art Academy (Nihon Geijutsuin), an institution comprised of one hundred lifetime appointees charged with the annual responsibility of awarding the Imperial Prize and the Japan Art Academy Prize. Shinsui subsequently received the Order of the Rising Sun, Japan's most prestigious civic award, in 1970 for his distinguished contributions to Japanese culture. Two of his works were posthumously honored with commemorative postage stamps in 1974 and 1983. Shinsui is now regarded by scholars as one of the great bijinga artists of the twentieth century. No other shin hanga artist came close to matching his output of bijinga.

Shinsui's collaboration with Watanabe began in 1916 after the publisher saw one of Shinsui's paintings in a Tokyo shop. His first print for Watanabe, Before the Mirror, launched a relationship that lasted twenty-five years, during which Shinsui designed several hundred bijinga for Watanabe primarily, but for other publishers as well. Shinsui sometimes designed prints for publications as series... but whereas the series of most other artists were conceptualized, printed, and published in a relatively short span of time, the design and publication of his three pre-World War II bijinga series were spread over many months and sometimes years. , his first series, was issued one print per month for one year in the early 1920s. First Series of Modern Beauties was issued between 1929 and 1931. Shinsui began his Second Series of Modern Beauties in 1931 but did not complete it until 1936. Watanabe sold Shinsui's series by subscription, hence their attenuated publication schedules. Titles and subtitles do not appear on any of Shinsui's serialized prints This information was conveyed to consumers through advertisements, brochures, and the [sic?] on folders or some other form of packaging used to distribute prints."

Quoted from: The Women of Shin Hanga..., edited by Allen Hockley, Hood Museum of Art, p. 118.


Shinsui studied with Kiyokata who learned from Toshikata who had studied with Yoshitoshi.


"Itō Shinsui was eighteen years old when Watanabe discovered his painting. Shinsui had gone to work at the age of thirteen as an employee of a Tokyo painting company where his artistic abilities were discovered and he was allowed to draw lithograph designs. At age fourteen he became a student of Kaburagi Kiyokata and at the age of exhibited a painting in the Bunten show. When he met Watanabe he was already making illustrations for magazines."

Quoted from: Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Early Years by Helen Merritt, pp. 47-48.