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Beauties of the Seasons---Summer
ca. 1772-1780

Isoda Koryƫsai , (Japanese, 1735-1790)
Edo period

Color and gold on silk
W: 67.8 cm
Japan

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1902.38

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Comparatively little is known about Koryusai. Various sources suggest that he was once a samurai in the service of the Tsuchiya domain (present-day Hitachi, north of Tokyo), or that his father held such a post. As an artist and designer, Koryusai enjoyed the tutelage of the very popular Suzuki Harunobu (1724–1770) and for a time used the studio name of Haruhiro, apparently given to him by Harunobu. During the decade of the 1770s, Koryursai produced highly regarded "beauty" prints as well as bird-and-flower prints, which often favored a long, narrow format.

In these paintings, perhaps once part of a larger four-painting ensemble, Koryusai reveals himself to be a master of atmospheric evocation. His mature style, notable in the skillful depiction of worldly and sometimes churlish women, departs from the innocent beauties of the Harunobu style. The representation of the moods of the two women seen here (and the accompanying image, F1902.39) is elaborated by the surrounding context of nature. In this summer scene, a frowning courtesan opens her umbrella to guard against a sudden downpour. Her distinctive hair style, with exaggerated wings, was the rage in the An'ei era (1772–80). The silhouette of the hair style was said to suggest either an open umbrella or a lantern top. This clue reasonably indicates when the painting was produced.