BIJIN = BEAUTIFUL WOMEN

bijin-blossoms-bob-kessel

2 square BIJIN BLOSSOMS print by Bob Kessel

BIJINGA (美人画) is a generic term for pictures of beautiful women in Japanese art, especially in woodblock printing of the ukiyo-e genre, which predate photography. The term can also be used for modern media, provided they conform to a somewhat classic representation of a woman, usually depicted wearing a kimono.

Nearly all ukiyo-e artists, including Hokusai and Hiroshige, produced BIJINGA, it being one of the central themes of the genre. However, a few, including Utamaro, Suzuki Harunobu, Toyohara Chikanobu, and Torii Kiyonaga are widely regarded as the greatest innovators and masters of the form.

Bob Kessel has created a new art series titled, “BIJINGA” based on the Ukiyo-e  genre wood block prints.
The pictures are available as limited edition original fine art prints, signed and numbered by the artist.
Contact Bob Kessel for prices and availability.

bijin-atomu-bob-kessel

BIJIN ATOMU

by Bob Kessel

bijin-fan-bob-kessel

BIJIN FAN

by Bob Kessel

bijin-pekochan-bob-kessel

BIJIN PEKOCHAN

by Bob Kessel

bijin-ribbon-bob-kessel

BIJIN RIBBON

by Bob Kessel

bijin-behind-fan-bob-kessel

BIJIN BEHIND FAN

by Bob Kessel

bijin-blinds-bob-kessel

BIJIN BLINDS

by Bob Kessel

bijin-with-fan-bob-kessel

BIJIN WITH FAN

by Bob Kessel

bijin-honey-bob-kessel

BIJIN HONEY

by Bob Kessel

bijin-3trees-bob-kessel

BIJIN 3 TREES

by Bob Kessel

bijin-home-bob-kessel

BIJIN HOME

by Bob Kessel

HOKUSAI by Bob Kessel

ukiyo-e-trees-fuji-bob-kessel

FUJI TREES by Bob Kessel

_

Bob Kessel’s art series “100 VIEWS” features pictures based on the works of Katsushika Hokusai. These pictures are available as signed and numbered limited edition fine art prints. Contact Bob Kessel for pricing and availability.

Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎,  1760–1849 was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. Born in Edo (now Tokyo), Hokusai is best-known as author of the woodblock print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景, c. 1831) which includes the iconic and internationally recognized print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, created during the 1820s. Hokusai created the “Thirty-Six Views” both as a response to a domestic travel boom and as part of a personal obsession with Mount Fuji. It was this series, specifically The Great Wave print and Fuji in Clear Weather, that secured Hokusai’s fame both within Japan and overseas. As historian Richard Lane concludes, “Indeed, if there is one work that made Hokusai’s name, both in Japan and abroad, it must be this monumental print-series…” While Hokusai’s work prior to this series is certainly important, it was not until this series that he gained broad recognition and left a lasting impact on the art world. It was also The Great Wave print that initially received, and continues to receive, acclaim and popularity in the Western world.

great_wave-hokusai

By 1800, Hokusai was further developing his use of ukiyo-e for purposes other than portraiture. He had also adopted the name he would most widely be known by, Katsushika Hokusai, the former name referring to the part of Edo where he was born and the latter meaning, ‘north studio’. That year, he published two collections of landscapes, Famous Sights of the Eastern Capital and Eight Views of Edo. He also began to attract students of his own, eventually teaching 50 pupils over the course of his life.

He became increasingly famous over the next decade, both due to his artwork and his talent for self-promotion. During a Tokyo festival in 1804, he created a portrait of the Buddhist priest Daruma said to be 600 feet (180 m) long using a broom and buckets full of ink. Another story places him in the court of the Shogun Iyenari, invited there to compete with another artist who practiced more traditional brush stroke painting. Hokusai’s painting, created in front of the Shogun, consisted of painting a blue curve on paper, then chasing a chicken across it whose feet had been dipped in red paint. He described the painting to the Shogun as a landscape showing the Tatsuta River with red maple leaves floating in it, winning the competition.

In 1820, Hokusai changed his name yet again, this time to “Iitsu,” a change which marked the start of a period in which he secured fame as an artist throughout Japan (though, given Japan’s isolation from the outside world during his lifetime, his fame overseas came after his death). It was during the 1820s that Hokusai reached the peak of his career. His most famous work, 36 Views of Mount Fuji, including the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa, dated from this period. It proved so popular that Hokusai later added ten more prints to the series. Among the other popular series of prints he published during this time are A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces and Unusual Views of Celebrated Bridges in the Provinces. He also began producing a number of detailed individual images of flowers and birds, including the extraordinarily detailed Poppies and Flock of Chickens.

The next period, beginning in 1834, saw Hokusai working under the name “Gakyō Rōjin Manji” (The Old Man Mad About Art). It was at this time that Hokusai produced One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji, another significant landscape series.

In the postscript to this work, Hokusai writes:

“From around the age of six,
I had the habit of sketching from life.
I became an artist,
and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation,
but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention.
At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts,
insects and fish, and of the way plants grow.
If I go on trying,
I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six,
so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature.
At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them,
while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the
stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive.
May Heaven, that grants long life,
give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.”

In 1839, disaster struck as a fire destroyed Hokusai’s studio and much of his work. By this time, his career was beginning to wane as younger artists such as Andō Hiroshige became increasingly popular. But Hokusai never stopped painting, and completed Ducks in a Stream at the age of 87.

Constantly seeking to produce better work, he apparently exclaimed on his deathbed,

“If only Heaven will give me just another ten years…
Just another five more years,
then I could become a real painter.”

He died on May 10, 1849, and was buried at the Seikyō-ji in Tokyo (Taito Ward).

A short four years after Hokusai’s death, an American fleet led by Matthew C. Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay and forced Japan to open its arms to the west. Hokusai’s career spanned the last age of Japanese history before its interaction with the west would change the course of the nation.

hokusai_portrait600

HOKUSAI self-portrait

SHUNGA by Bob Kessel

Bob Kessel has created a new art series titled, “SHUNGA” based on Japanese woodblock prints. These pictures are available as limited edition original fine art prints, signed and numbered by the artist. Contact Bob Kessel for prices and availability.

Recently there has been many new pictures added to Bob Kessel’s Shunga art series. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the shunga webpage receives 10 times the hits of any other Bob Kessel art series.

shunga-wrapped-bob-kessel-410

SHUNGA WRAPPED by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-lickity-split-bob-kessel-410

SHUNGA LICKITY SPLIT by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-yellow-man-bob-kessel-410

SHUNGA YELLOW MAN by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-dragon-pillow-bob-kessel

SHUNGA DRAGON PILLOW by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-fireworks-bob-kessel

SHUNGA FIREWORKS by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-arm-bob-kessel

SHUNGA ARM by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-couple-bob-kessel

SHUNGA COUPLE by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-red-kimono-bob-kessel

SHUNGA RED KIMONO by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-kiss-bob-kessel

SHUNGA KISS by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-legs-bob-kessel

SHUNGA LEGS by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-happy-ending-bob-kessel

SHUNGA HAPPY ENDING by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-kissing-bob-kessel

SHUNGA KISSING by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-kisser-bob-kessel

SHUNGA KISSER by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-gray-lines-bob-kessel

SHUNGA GRAY LINES by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-print-viewing-bob-kessel

SHUNGA PRINT VIEWING by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-orgy-bob-kessel

SHUNGA ORGY by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-hug-bob-kessel

SHUNGA HUG by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

shunga-night-time-bob-kessel

SHUNGA NIGHTTIME by Bob Kessel
from SHUNGA art series

SHUNGA EXPLAINED

Shunga are literally “images of spring.” That is the time of recreation and procreation, the time that inspires man and woman to couple, as if anyone needed an excuse. Shunga appeared prominently in the works of Hokusai, Utamaro, and many other revered woodcut artists.

In the Japan of the 1800’s, the color woodcut print was the most popular artform of the day. The artists of the so-called floating world or ukiyo-e portrayed real life personages and situations as the subject matter for their wood block prints. Ukiyo-e artists created extraordinary portraits of Kabuki Actors, Geisha, Sumo Wrestlers, and other notables, as well as landscapes and architectural views of old Japan. The incredible artistic output of these highly skilled artists left us an accurate view of life in the Japan of yesteryear. There was however another aspect to the art of the ukiyo-e that few Westerners have heard of, that is the art of shunga, or… the Images of Spring.

The production of such images kept most ukiyo-e artists very busy. In fact there were no artists of the time who remained uninvolved with the creation of shunga. The artists of the floating world many times created highly charged sexual imagery, erotic imagery, what Westerners would categorize as “pornographic” pictures.
Ukiyo-e artists created these “Images of Spring” without the slightest notion of embarrassment or shame. There was no stigma attached to the production, sale, or purchase of shunga artworks, in fact the market for such artworks was a lively and lucrative one. Erotic images were not illegal and collections of shunga were sold in book form, called enpon.

This artistic output on the part of Japanese artists had no equivalent in the Western art of that time and illustrates a completely different attitude about sex and morality. The aesthetics of shunga reflected the Japanese view of the body and sex as being part of the natural world, a world that held no concept of original sin.

It was a longstanding tradition that brides of feudal lords bring a collection of shunga to go along with their wedding furniture. There was also a tradition of feudal lords placing shunga in their helmet box whenever they had a new suit of armor made. These customs were a talismanic wish for eternal happiness and many artists made a comfortable living as a result.

The sale of shunga to a high-ranking person would bring enough money to sustain an artist for months, and so many notable, first rate and highly accomplished artists devoted themselves to this unprecedented artform. The level of detail with which ukiyo-e artists portrayed the human body revealed complete familiarity with anatomy and sexuality. Practically speaking the “Images of Spring” also served as a form of sex education for the sons and daughters of the well to do. This type of frank, accurate, and free representation of sexual matters was not to be seen in the West for at least another one hundred and fifty years.

There is limited knowledge of this artform outside of Japan, and in Japan itself shunga is scarcely seen or spoken of these days. However, the aesthetics of shunga still resonate in the contemporary world of certain manga and anime productions. The venerable art of shunga is the root for some modern day Japanese adult comic titles, proving without a doubt that eroticism in contemporary anime and manga is not at all a new phenomenon copied or borrowed from the West.

Those who are well acquainted with Japan’s enormous manga industry should be familiar with the genre of comic known as hentai (or “perverted”). These contemporary publications often focus on explicit “adult” material, but they have a clear artistic connection to the past in that their themes can be traced back to shunga. Shunga artworks are much more than mere “dirty pictures.”

The prints are of considerable artistry and cultural importance. In fact quite a few prestigious art museums around the world, especially in Japan, have collections of the highly prized risque prints (though they are not generally on public display).

Some scenes portrayed in shunga prints involve tender courting and romance, with all the attendant trappings of flirtation. Many of the prints offer scenes that leave nothing to the imagination. Couples are pictured in states of partial undress, in the throes of passionate lovemaking, utilizing a variety of positions and techniques.

There are even prints that depict lovely young ladies pleasuring themselves, a sight nearly totally absent from the annals of Western art! Whatever the sensual delights portrayed, the prints always manage to do so with sophistication and a certain elegance. Shunga prints are one of the overlooked treasures of traditional Japanese fine art. The “Images of Spring” should be properly recognized as high art, and at the same time preserved and studied for being one of the world’s greatest graphic art forms.

Print from the Bob Kessel art series "SHUNGA".

LAMP by Bob Kessel from SHUNGA art series