Woman in Red

Katsukawa Shunshō 勝川春章 Japanese

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Shunshō was a master at capturing the drama of the moment. He was the founder of the Katsukawa school, which devoted itself to depicting Edo's actors. Shunshō excelled at dramatic designs for pillar prints, which were made to be hung from house posts. He created linear figures that related in ingenious ways to this expressive and demanding shape.

In this subtle yet erotic work, Shunshō exploits a single color to accentuate the sweeping lines of his drawing. An ordinary courtesan is defined by the fabric of her clothing, except for one arm, which pierces the folds of her long sleeve. She holds the bottom of this sleeve up to her face in a contrived gesture of modesty. A sheaf of tissue paper is in her other hand. Her simple robe is decorated with tie-dyed dots (kanoko shibori) in the traditional hemp-leaf pattern, a stylized motif often used for clothing.

Woman in Red, Katsukawa Shunshō 勝川春章 (Japanese, 1726–1792), Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper, Japan

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