Kiyonaga Torii, Hashira-e, Beauty by the River


Artist: Kiyonaga Torii (1752–1815)
Title: Beauty by the River
Date: 18th century
Size: 11.3 x 69.5 cm (including backing).

Original Japanese woodblock print.

A print depicting a woman standing on the banks of Sumida River beneath an overhanging branch, holding a fan to shield her eyes from the sun, further figures in boats behind her.

Hashira-e, or pillar prints, is a narrow print format originally intended for decoration of the supporting pillars in traditional Japanese houses. The prints would have been pasted to the pillars and exposed to the elements of the Japanese household, making those that have survived very rare collectibles. While these more unusual sizes present their own challenges to the printing process, they also allow the artist to be experimental, imaginative, and innovative with the design’s compositional limitations.

Subjects range from the traditional portrayals of bijin (beautiful women), to legendary figures and heroes, to birds and flowers, in a limited space brimming with artistic imagination and expression.

Kiyonaga Torii (1752 - 1815)

Kiyonaga was born in Uraga, the son of a bookseller, but moved at an early age to Edo. He was a pupil of Kiyomitsu, the third Torii master. He was also influenced by Harunobu, Koryusai and Shigemasa. After Kiyomitsu’s death, he adopted the Torii name for the fourth generation. Between 1785 and 1811, he published some 120 illustrated books. In addition he produced numerous individual prints, series of three or more bijin-ga, musha-e and yakusha-e – the traditional stock-in-trade of the Torii school – along the surimono and fan pictures. In spite of his obligations to the Torii school, Kiyonaga went far beyond, what they attempted, in that he freed himself from stylised representations, creating portraits with realistic elements. In his theatre pictures, he incorporated the stage and the podium with its narrators and musicians, thus achieving a certain sense of depth. The general trend in ukiyo-e art towards greater naturalism and larger figures culminated in Kiyonaga. Well-proportioned beauties integrated into realistically portrayed settings, elegance and balance – these are the hallmarks of his work.

More Information
Print FormatHashira-e (Pillar Print)
ArtistKiyonaga Torii (1752 - 1815)
SubjectBeauty & Female
Size11.3 x 69.5 cm (including backing)
Condition ReportBacking. Tape residue on the top corners. Black outline slightly smudged. Some soiling and discolouration.