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Exhibit Catalog to the Morris County Historical Society's "Out of the Closet" Exhibition

Beauty in a Tree

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Kuniyoshi
Beauty in a Tree (one sheet from a triptych)
Circa mid-19th century
Woodblock print
9 3/4 x 14 in.
 
 
Found in the Collection.

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.