Paul Binnie, Beauty Portrait, A Frontispiece Illustration of 1900, Contemporary Print

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Original Japanese woodblock print. 

Artist: Paul Binnie (1967 – )
Title: A Frontispiece Illustration of 1900
Series: Flowers of a Thousand Years (Hyakunen no hana)
Published: by the artist
Date: 2012
Edition: 36/100
Dimensions: 47.5 x 33.5 cm

 

This print shows a young woman looking at the woodblock printed illustration in the front of a copy of Bungei Kurabu, a very popular literary magazine aimed at a female audience. By 1900 there were several magazines like this one, all of which serialised works of new and older fiction and might include poetry and criticism. The important point is that by this time, the educational reforms of the Meiji government meant that women were now on an equal footing with men in being taught to read and write to a functioning level, so Japan had become a nation with universal literacy. The situation was such that the female population, which had remained largely neglected during the previous Edo period, now had the skills to read and write competently and had access to literature, even supporting a specific genre of literary magazines aimed at women.

 

The model has a reformed hairstyle, looser than the traditional Shimada hairstyle and closer to the circa 1900 ‘Gibson Girl’ hairstyle of Western nations, and she has chosen to have no combs or decorations in it, even though she continues to wear kimono and not Western dress, symbolic of the types of stylistic mixes one sees around Meiji 33 (1900). This new style of hair tends to be linked to educated, forward-thinking women in illustrations of the period, and so seems right for our literate magazine subscriber.

 

The magazine is palely printed using baren sujizuri to suggest that we are seeing the reverse of the image, and the darker green on the cover of the book as well as the background are highlighted with sprinkled mica. In addition, the collar of her inner kimono is embellished with 24 carat gold squares, printed in a kirigane or cut gold style, and the edge of the leaves of the magazine are embossed.

 

Series and print title embossed on the top left-hand side. Edition number and artist signature in original pencil. ‘Binnie’ embossed on the bottom margin.

Paul Binnie


Blending traditional methods with a modern style, Paul Binnie is working mostly under the influence of Shin-hanga movement, founded by the publisher Shozaburo Watanabe (1885-1962). Shozaburo was aiming to renew declining Ukiyo-e tradition and break into foreign markets by commissioning new, young artists who would work within the old co-operated system, composed of the publisher, artist, engraver and printers. However, Paul makes his own prints from beginning to the end by himself, as was done by artists of another post-war movement: Sosaku hanga.

He mostly works in several subjects such as Kabuki, tattoo, landscape and beauty prints. His original plan had been to stay in Japan less than he actually did but once he started to sell his Kabuki prints, he decided to expand his technique more and has created works of this subject until 1998 in Japan. His interest in Japanese tattoo was born when he saw Yakuza, members of the Japanese mafia who traditionally have body tattoos, bathing for the first time in a sento (Japanese-style public bath). He is still working on a series of woodblock prints of this theme. Near the end of 1997, he began to do Japanese landscape prints and these became a huge success.

More Information
Print FormatDai-Oban
Artist NamePaul Binnie
TitleA Frontispiece Illustration of 1900
SubjectBeauty & Female, Contemporary
Dimensions47.5 x 33.5 cm
SeriesFlowers of a Hundred Years