Shinsui Ito was born in Tokyo as Hajime Ito. His artistic training began at age 12, working in the drawing department of the Tokyo Printing Company before studying with leading Japanese-style painter Kiyokata. By 1916, Shinsui completed his first woodblock print, followed by the series Eight Views of Lake Biwa a year later. From 1916 to 1941, Shinsui collaborated with the famous publisher Watanabe, exporting many of these prints to the West. Between 1922 and 1923, Shinsui designed his first set of the beauties (Twelve Figures of New Beauties). After the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, Shinsui pursued the genre of bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women), completing two series entitled Collection of Modern Beauties (1929-1931 and 1931-1936).
While most recognized for his bijin-ga, Shinsui continued painting and designing landscape prints. Inspired by the works of Hasui, Shinsui captured not only the Japanese countryside, but also the Indonesian landscape during his brief time stationed there during the Pacific War. In 1952, Shinsui’s mastery of woodblock design was designated as Intangible Cultural Property, an event commemorated with his print Tresses (1952). Appointed to the Japan Art Academy in 1958, Shinsui received the Order of the Rising Sun in 1970 before his death in 1972. Truly elegant in appearance and graceful in pose, Shinsui’s bijin-ga have earned him a reputation as an unrivaled painter of women and a master of design.