Combing Hair (<i>Kamisuki</i> - 髪梳き)
Combing Hair (<i>Kamisuki</i> - 髪梳き)

Torii Kotondo (鳥居言人) (artist 1900 – 1976)

Combing Hair (Kamisuki - 髪梳き)


11.75 in x 18.25 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Kotondo saku
Artist's seal: Kotondo
Publisher: Sakai-Kawaguchi
Dated: Shōwa yonen jūgatsu
Showa 4, 10th month
Title (embossed): Kamisuki (髪梳き)
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Honolulu Museum of Art
Walters Museum of Art
The National Museum of Asian Art
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art

"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.


In the catalogue entry in The Women of Shin Hanga... it says: "Kotondo's treatment of the woman's body is also unique. Contour lines in Japanese prints are generally printed in black off the key block. Kotondo opts for pink instead of black. When combined with pink highlights on the face and hands and the flesh tone of the skin, the woman's body radiates the heat it absorbed while bathing."



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.

5) In color in The Women of Shin Hanga: The Judith and Joseph Barker Collection of Japanese Prints, edited by Allen Hockley, Hood Museum of Art, p. 202.

6) In color in The Female Image: 20th century prints of Japanese beauties, Abe Publisher, 2000, #170, p. 128.

7) in color in Seven Masters: 20th-Century Japanese Woodblock Prints from The Wells Collection, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2015, p. 191.


There may also be another copy of this print in the Kagono Art Museum.
modern prints (shin hanga - 新版画) (genre)
Sakai Kawaguchi (酒井川口) (publisher)
Showa era (昭和時代) (genre)