Colour woodblock print, pillar print (hashira-e). Signed Kiyonaga ga. Impression with a good key block but colours completely faded. Backed. 652 x 118 mm.
See Jacob Pins, The Japanese Pillar Print, Hashira-e, London 1982; no. 609.
Torii Kiyonaga is considered one of the great masters of full colour printing and bijinga, images of courtesans and other beautiful women. Although he was not biologically related to the Torii family, he became head of the group after the death of his adoptive father and teacher Torii Kiyomitsu. Kiyonaga began his career with images of kabuki actors, a genre for which the Torii school was well known, but later began drawing beautiful women. During the late 1960s and 1970s, as he assimilated the styles of many artists, he was gradually working towards a unique personal language. The women in Kiyonaga's prints are often described as fuller and more mature than those of her predecessor Harunobu, whose prints often depict women who look younger and thinner. The special features of Kiyonaga's figure style are a tall stature (the head is only one-eighth of the total height) and a vital appearance. He was skilled in groupings of figures and there are many masterpieces among his multi-sheet compositions. Kiyonaga produced a large number of prints of women in the 1780s, replacing Koryusai as the leading bijinga designer. After becoming the fourth generation head of the Torii school around 1787, he increasingly withdrew from woodblock print design.