The tradition of bijinga (美人画, “beautiful person picture”) is said to have originated in Kyoto around the mid-Edo period as an art form that portrayed not only external beauty, but inner beauty.
The style continued to evolve through the Meiji and Taisho periods of Japanese modernity but now, a group of young Kyoto-based painters are taking the genre and adding a fresh coat of paint. One of those is Kazuho Imaoka.
Born in Osaka in 1991, Kazuho Imaoka studied at Seian University of Art and Design in Shiga prefecture. Her portraits feature woman, and in many cases, their cats, combined with an emphasis on fashion and textiles. Imaoka has said that her subjects are often linked in someway to herself, and that she attempts to convey the unspoken emotions of women living in society.
The young artist’s portraits are unmistakably contemporary, but she has a way of connecting the past to the present, perhaps through a successful transmission of inner beauty.
If you’re in Tokyo, Kazuho Imaoka’s work is part of a group show at Ginza Tsutaya Books through January 13, 2020.