Japan Art: Beauty and Distorted Mirrors

Japan Art: Beauty and Distorted Mirrors

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Onchi Koshiro (1891-1955) was born into privilege. He focused on the Sosaku Hanga (creative prints) art movement (first and third images by Onchi).

In the above art piece, Onchi focuses on a young lady who seeks to view her hair from the back by using a mirror. Accordingly, the viewer is drawn to her beauty – and intrigued by what her full facial features would look like. However, in her world, her sole concern is her hairstyle. Therefore, the mirror is symbolic of different realities – like life itself!

The above art piece is by Kitano Tsunetomi (1880-1947). Kitano, similar to Onchi, belongs to the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods of Japanese history. Interestingly, all three art pieces by Kitano and Onchi were completed between 1929 and 1930. 

The Kyocera Museum of Art (Kyoto) says, “He became popular for decadent paintings of beautiful woman rendered with sensual emotion and punctilious expression, then steadily shifted to paintings of serene, elegant woman.”

In the art piece above by Onchi, you can visualize her beauty despite barely seeing her face. Hence, like the distant world outside that is unknown or relates to respective revisionism (good or bad), her face remains a mystery like much of life. 

The British Museum reports, “Onchi was the most important figure in the ‘Sosaku Hanga’ movement from 1918 until his death… He was also the most internationally conscious of all the print artists of the period, in spite of never going to the West and hardly ever leaving Japan.”

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