An Oiran Standing, a Pipe in Her right Hand, and Turning to Look Behind over Her Shoulder
Torii Kiyomasu I (Japanese, active 1696–1716)
Edo period (1615–1868)
Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper
21 7/8 x 12 3/4 in. (55.6 x 32.4 cm)
The Francis Lathrop Collection, Purchase, Frederick C. Hewitt Fund, 1911
Not on view
The first ukiyo-e prints were conceived as paraphrases of ink drawings. The woodblock cutter gave exaggerated attention to duplicating the irregularities of the brush stroke, for instance, the variations in thickness of the calligraphic curves and the feathery quality at the point where the brush left the paper. However, in this translation from painting to the simplicity of the woodblock print, the freely-drawn line of the brush artist became more precise and robust in the physical process of incising hard wood. Additionally, the contrast between the soft, white paper and the heavy black calligraphic lines, the bold graphic patterning, and greater attention to the surface all contributed to a new aesthetic.
Kiyomasu represents the vigorous style of the Torii school artist. This composition offers an outstanding example of the diverse appearance of line—the thick, vigorous calligraphic strokes that adorn the sleeve and outer robe in contrast to the delicate geometric lines that suggest the inner robe. The courtesan gestures with the full curve of the body, while her outer robe is depicted with a fluid, animated line and slashing strokes that emphasize the weight of the draping sleeve. Large sweeping lines are allowed full play in graceful acknowledgement of the Edo beauty.