HIRANO Hakuhô (1879-1957)
Very little is known about Hirano Hakuhô (•½–ì”’•ô), 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 figure on the right 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).
Hakuhô was one of several shin hanga artists who were adept at capturing feminine gestures in graphic form. Note, for example, the
splayed fingers of the right hand as the woman 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, although the weight of her lower body does help to anchor her to the floor. The
stark white skin is contrasted 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 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
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.