Beauty at Night – Pre-Manga Art

Beauty at Night - Junichi Nakahara - 1946
Beauty at Night – Junichi Nakahara – 1946

We bought this recently from a small shop in York that specialises in Japanese and some Russian prints and paintings. The woodblock is called Beauty at Night.

From what I understand, it was created by a Japanese artist called Junichi Nakahara (1913-1983) who, between 1947 and 1952 published a women’s magazine called Himawari.

Timeout’s description of Nakahara is amusingly gentle, “Not content with being one of the most influential fashion editors of the post-war period, the late Junichi Nakahara was also a prolific illustrator, doll maker and interior designer, whose depictions of stylish ladies are credited as one of the inspirations for the shojo manga genre.”

Artelino also points out that, “Junichi Nakahara was born in Kagawa prefecture. He worked as an illustrator, among others for the magazine ‘Shoujyo no Tomo’ and as a serious printmaker. In the 1920s and 1930s his illustrations of young girls with big eyes were famous – today the typical style of Japanese anime and managa drawings. Junichi Nakahara is considered as a forerunner of manga art.”

Beauty at Night - Junichi Nakahara - 1946
Beauty at Night – Junichi Nakahara – 1946

Finally, the Sogo Museum of Art in its Junichi Nakahara Exhibition celebrating 100 years since the artist’s birth, Nakahara, “pursued beauty through fashion, interior and lifestyle in a career which spanned the prewar and postwar periods and gained the wide endorsement of many women.

“Nakahara became a charismatic symbol in his quest to bring richness and beauty into women’s lives, following his cause through numerous fields not only of magazine editing and illustration but also in his role as fashion designer, hair and make up artist, stylist, interior designer, producer and doll maker, revealing a touch of genius across these many disciplines.”

From what I can discover, Beauty at Night was created as a woodblock in or around 1946, just prior to the launch of Himawari. If you know any more, please get in touch either in comments or directly via gashead @gashead.net

What struck me about the print – aside from its obvious foreshadowing of Manga – was the coquettish, very Western, very French, attitude of the subject. Good call, apparently.

According to Ducky007 who attended the Yokohama exhibition commemorating Nakahara’s birth, “He also went to study in Paris and brought back European ideas of fashion to Japan. When people had very little he provided tips on how assemble what you already own to look fashionable. I am inspired by his ideas of how to make great fashion with what you have, rather than participating in the fast fashion or throw away fashion of modern Japan.”

I’m keen to discover more.

Please leave a comment. Many thanks.