The Evolution of Bijin'ga (Beauty Pictures)
The word "bijin'ga" means "beauty picture" or "a portrait of a beautiful woman".
During the Edo period in Japan, Ukiyo-e artists often chose to depict
the people found in the "red light" districts (or pleasure quarters) of Edo (present-day Tokyo) - notably the kabuki actors
and beautiful women found there. Ukiyo-e artists found that portraits of waitresses, courtesans, and geisha from these districts
were wildly popular, and so these subjects flourished during the Edo period.
During the Meiji period, although the term "Ukiyo-e" ("floating world") still applies
to the style, the subject matter slowly changed. Kabuki actors and courtesan portraits were still being produced, but the
real focus of attention moved from courtesan bijin'ga to everyday beautiful women performing ordinary tasks.
Bijin'ga, for the most part, were not even considered art when they were produced.
Many kabuki actor and bijin'ga prints were used for advertisements, postcards, and mementos for special occasions.
"Beauty in a Tree"
This particular bijin'ga was executed during the Edo period by Kuniyoshi. It
was originally part of a triptych, or a set of three prints that form a unifying scene. These examples of bijin'ga triptychs may help us understand how this picture originally fit together with two other prints.