Profile of Geisha

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai θ‘›ι£ΎεŒ—ζ–Ž (1760-1849)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, ca. 1806-1808
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 51.9 Γ— 18.1 cm (20 7/16 Γ— 7 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Edo period (1615 - 1868), geisha, Japan, ukiyo-e
Provenance research underway.

A young woman in rich, elegant attire-thought to be a geisha (entertainer)-is shown from the side, her head in exact profile. Her lifting one toe and leaning back slightly give the suggestion of motion. Perhaps she responds to music playing at a party or simply makes a stylish entrance. Thickly swelling ink lines in a variety of tones describe the outlines and folds of the geisha's costume, visually implying the weight and sheen of the rich silk fabrics. The single most bravura line, done at some speed, snakes around to create the hem of the skirts. All the detailing of the head and face, from the tiny lines for eyebrow, eye, nostril, and lip to the oiled hair that coils around the hairpins, is abbreviated, yet the result is vividly alive. This apparently simple painting reflects Hokusai's mastery of brushwork and his ability to convey movement in his figure paintings.

Published References
  • Hokusai nikuhitsuga taisei [Compilation of paintings by Hokusai]. Tokyo. no. 65.
  • Harold P. Stern, Narasaki Muneshige. Ukiyo-e shuka. vol. 16, Tokyo. no. 112.
  • Ann Yonemura. Hokusai: Volume One. Exh. cat. Washington, 2006. cat. 10, p. 16.
  • Ann Yonemura, Nagata Seiji, Kobayashi Tadashi, Asano Shugo, Timothy Clark, Naito Masatoshi. Hokusai: Volume Two. Exh. cat. Washington, 2006. cat. 34, p. 30, 55.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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