Shin Nigao Magazine


Natori Shunsen (1886-1960)

Tōzō in the role of Susanoo no Mikoto

Front cover from issue #5 (the last issue) of Shin Nigao

IHL Cat. #581

Source: Hanga Gallery website [page no longer active 1-4-24]and the website of JapanesePrints-London [accessed 1-4-24] and the tables of contents of the four of the five issues of the magazine.

During the Taishō period (1912-1926), many of the urban Japanese youth were drawn away from kabuki to more modern forms of entertainment, especially Western imports like cinema and baseball.

One notable effort to revive interest in actor prints was the publication of Shin Nigao 新似顔 (New Portraits) magazine in 1915. This art magazine was a collaboration among several Japanese artists, including Natori Shunsen (1886 - 1960), Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958), and Yamamura Toyonari (1885-1942). The general purpose of Shin Nigao was to advertise for the kabuki theater, but it also gave the artists a chance to express themselves in new ways. A total of 77 prints were published in the magazine over five issues, with each of the first four issues featuring 14 small woodblock prints and the fifth, and last, the "Coronation" issue, featuring 21 prints, including five portraits of officials associated with the November 1915 enthronement ceremonies of Emperor Yoshihito (Emperor Taishō) and portraits of geisha from Tokyo and Kyoto who performed at the ceremonies.1 All of the prints were carved by Igami Bonkotsu 伊上凡骨, a master artisan who was a friend of the artist Ishii Hakutei. Prints in issues 2 through 5 were also printed by Igami with prints in issue 1 being printed by Nakamura Sanjirō 中村三次郎. Most of the prints included in Shin Nigao are portraits based on simple line drawings. A few of these small prints were used as the basis for similar but more detailed shin hanga produced by these same artists in later years. 

The magazines are also notable for the involvement of well-known poets and writers including Inoue Kankabō 井上剣花坊 (1870-1934), Shōyō Matsui 松居松葉 (1870-1933) and Yosano Akiko 與謝野晶子 (1878-1942) who contributed poems and essays. 

In the first issue of the magazine, the prints were bound into the magazine with the adjoining page providing details on the print, but in subsequent issues the prints were "tipped" onto a page which provided the title of the print (actor and role being played) with the artist's name directly below the print.

Although Shin Nigao attracted some interest, production of the magazine ended after only five issues.

Covers of the five issues of Shin Nigao 

Source: Shin-hanga, New Prints in Modern Japan, Brown, Kendall H. and Hollis Goodall-Cristante, Los Angeles County Museum of Art in association with Univ. of Washington Press, 1996, p. 49.

Shin hanga artists were familiar with classic ukiyo-e representations through reproductions, such as Hashiguchi Goyo’s (1880-1921) editions after Utamaro (1754-1806) and Sharaku (1770-1825), as well as through many extant Meiji prints. That many of these conventions (the portrait bust composition and strong lines of traditional ukiyo-e actor prints) survived into the Taisho period is witnessed in Shin Nigao (New Portraits), a short-lived magazine of 1915, which published fourteen or fifteen woodcut actor portraits in each of its five issues.

The small (approx. 7 x 4 1/2 in.) Shin Nigao prints preserve the portrait bust composition and strong lines of traditional ukiyo-e actor prints but often add a greater sense of volume and a rough style of cutting that suggest the Western sketch tradition. However, the traditional ukiyo-e emphasis on the character of the dramatic personage obscures almost any sense of the actor’s personality.

Source: Printed to Perfection – Twentieth-Century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, Merviss, Newland, et. al., Hotei Publishing, 2004, p. 26-27.

Shin Nigao is signal as it represents the collaboration between sosaku hanga and shin hanga artists, and as such challenges the preconception that clear-cut boundaries existed between the two camps.  The artists involved in Shin Nigao hoped that their work would fuel interest in actor portraiture in the early Taisho period, for as is stated in the third issue:

…in the past were nigao-e [actor portraits] by the Torii and Utagawa Schools, but despite the skill in the craft of the print master, in the technique of the printing with the baren and the skill of the woodblock master they gradually declined by the end of the Meiji. Other means like lithographic pictures and color photography appears to be spreading the proud face of the times; it is indeed regrettable…

1 See the prints IHL Cat. #s 219, 280, 848 and 851 below, depicting a Noh performer in the play Okina (219), two Goseki dancers (280 and 251) and Prime Minister Ōkuma (848).

Table of Contributing Artists

Reference for All Five Volumes Complete

website of Art Research Center (ARC) [accessed 1-3-2024]

Table of Contents for Issues 1, 3, 4 and 5 (Issue 2 did not contain a table of contents)

Shin Nigao First Year 1st Issue

 第一年初編 新似繪顔 目次

click on image to enlarge

Shin Nigao First Year 3rd Issue

新似顔 第一年三編

click on image to enlarge

Shin Nigao First Year 4th Issue

新似顔 第一年四編

click on image to enlarge

Shin Nigao First Year 5th Issue

(Commemorative Issue)

新似顔第一年第五編紀念號 目次

click on image to enlarge

The Entire Set of 77 Shin Nigao Prints Arranged by Artist


Prints in this collection show a catalogue number.

Click on artist name to see the artist's biography.

Click on thumbnails for details on print.


in the role of Benkei

段四郎 辨慶

Issue 1, June 1915


in the role of Benten Kozo

Issue 2, July 1915


in the role of Nango Rikimaru

Issue 2, July 1915


in the role of Takezawa Kenmotsu in the play Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi

彦三郎 竹澤監物

Issue 3, August 1915


in the role of Hachirobei

Issue 5, November 1915


in the role of Kyuui​?

八百藏 休意

Issue 1, June 1915


in the role of Sukeroku

羽左衛門 助六

Issue 1, June 1915


in the role of Shirozake

延二郎 白洒賣

Issue 1, June 1915

Issue 2, July 1915



in the role of Oboshi Yuranosuke

Issue 2, July 1915

Issue 2, July 1915


in the role of Hiraemon

Issue 2, July 1915


in the role of ?

菊五郎 ?

Issue 3, August 1915

frontispiece, foldout

[Hatsuse] Namiko

in the role of Matsushima 

浪子 松島 

Issue 3, August 1915

[Sawamura] Sojurō

in the role of [Fukuoka] Mitsugi


Issue 3, August 1915


in the role of Queen Artes

Issue 4, October 1915


in the role of Taira Tomomori

Issue 4, October 1915


in the role of Minamoto Yoshitsune

Issue 4, October 1915