Ito Shinsui and Art of Japan: The Old Mirror of Beauty and the New World

Ito Shinsui and Art of Japan: The Old Mirror of Beauty and the New World

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The artist Ito Shinsui (1898-1972) is a notable twentieth century artist from the land of the rising sun. This applies to the amazing sophistication and grace of so many art pieces. Also, Shinsui didn’t negate the rich traditions of Japanese art despite being open to many new art forms based on knowledge and respect. Therefore, Shinsui opened up the “old mirror” of Japanese art but with the natural beauty of new color schemes and concepts that fused both realities.

Indeed, if you want a glimpse into traditional fashion styles related to women in their finest, then Shinsui does this with abundance. In this sense, the twentieth century may have been in full swing. However, aspects of the Edo period and early Meiji era can be felt deeply in the amazing art works of Shinsui.


I comment in an earlier article that: “…the artwork of Shinsui is not only extremely beautiful and charming but the facial features of the ladies are very mysterious. This reality is most striking. For Shinsui possesses a style that conjures up sublime beauty but within settings that are at one with nature and which don’t need to be sensationalized.”

B.C. Liddell on the website Fujiland states: “Shinsui Ito was a central figure in Japan’s artistic identity crisis during the 20th century. As wave after wave of artistic ‘isms’ from overseas broke upon these shores, native artists felt compelled to either abandon their own rich artistic traditions or embrace them even more strongly. Ito … was one of those artists who chose the latter course, joining the Nihonga movement, which looked to Japan’s past for inspiration rather than the confusing plethora of ideas pouring in from abroad.”


In saying this, the amazing adaption of color and rich expressions of facial aspects to females within the art of Shinsui does relate to the changing world. Of course, the “old world” remained firmly within the soul of Shinsui. However, the amazing technological changes, new materials during his lifetime and how art now connected to the masses, does mean that the Nihonga movement appealed greatly to the new world.

Liddell states: “Japanese art inspired by the imported artistic movements of the 20th century often looks derivative and dated, but the work of Shinsui Ito retains its sincere beauty and timeless appeal.”


Shinsui also created many stunning landscapes therefore the art world in Japan was certainly blessed by his rich talents. His legacy remains strong because of the stunning art pieces he created. Also, the spectrum of his art appeals greatly because he belonged to the “old world” and “new world.”


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Some Japanese cultural and art articles by Modern Tokyo Times are republished based on our growing international readership and the need to highlight the unique reality of Japan.