Artist: Paul Binnie (1967 – )
Title: A Frontispiece Illustration of 1900
Series: Flowers of a Thousand Years (Hyakunen no hana)
Published: by the artist
Dimensions: 47.5 cm 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.