HIRANO Hakuhô (1879-1957)
Very little is known about Hirano Hakuhô (平野白峰), who was a Nihonga (Japanese-style) painter. He was born in Kyoto and appears to have been self-taught. In the 1930s he published a small number of prints with Shôzaburô Watanabe, some of which were issued in limited, numbered editions.
The print illustrated here is in the ôban format. It is signed, sealed, and inscribed at the lower left, Shôwa shichinen shigatsu Hakuhô ("A picture by Hakuhô, 4th month of Showa 7"), corresponding to April 1932. There is no title or publisher's mark, but based on stylistic characteristics, credit is given to the publishing firm of Watanabe.
A young beauty is making up before a mirror. She is dressed in a beautiful robe made with the shibori shaped-resist technique and decorated with a traditional design of waves and wagon wheels. Hakuho used a conventional back-view to show the exposed nape of the neck, considered an erotic display in Japan (see Goyo-Utamaro for one of the most famous depictions of this kind). Hakuhô designed another print on this theme that was featured in the important Toledo exhibition catalog of 1936 (see reference below).
Hirano Hakuhô was one of several shin hanga artists who were adept at capturing feminine gestures in the neo-ukiyo-e idiom. The splayed fingers of the right hand counter-balances the turn of her head. As the floor is barely suggested by the darker shade of gray, her figure appears to float in the unarticulated space, yet the weight of her lower body helps with the illusion of anchoring her to the floor. Her white skin contrasts alluringly with the raven-black hair, green collar, and red kimono. Fashionable beauties were among the perennial subjects of ukiyo-e and shin hanga, appealing for well over a century to both domestic and foreign audiences. The tradition of bijinga ("pictures of beautiful women") first established by the ukiyo-e masters, and culminating in Utamaro, was reintroduced in a modern idiom by artists such as Hirano Hakuhô. © 2001 by John Fiorillo
- Stephens, A.: The New Wave: Twentieth Century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection. London and Leiden, 1993, pp. 126 and plate 127.
- Toledo Museum of Art: A Special Exhibition of Modern Japanese Prints, 1936, no. 2.