Seiu Ito

Seiu Ito, also romanised as Seiyu Itoh was a Japanese painter, recognised today as “the father of modern kinbaku”. Ito was born Hajime Ito (伊藤 一 Itō Hajime) in Asakusa district and adopted the alias Seiu (Sino-Japanese reading of kanji for words ‘clear’ and ‘rain’) at age 13. Ito started his education in painting by 1890 and by 1907, he began working for newspapers.

Ito hired a young art school model named Kise Sahara in 1919. Kise became Ito’s second wife after she got pregnant and posed willingly for her husband. Ito became the target of censors in 1930, which led to the draining of his fortunes. Most of his paintings were destroyed during the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 1945.

As an artist, Ito was very interested in kabuki and other ways of the Edo period and his book A History of Edo and Tokyo Manners was published around 1923. His technique for depiction of Edo period tortures was to bind his model in various ways, have the photographs taken, and use them as inspiration for his paintings. A notorious exploit of such kind was binding his pregnant wife Kise and have her suspended upside down for a drawing imitating the ukiyo-e The Lonely House on Adachi Moor in Michinoku Province by Yoshitoshi.

In 1960, he was awarded by the Japan Artists Association. Ito’s life was the subject of director Noboru Tanaka’s 1977 Nikkatsu Roman porno film Beauty’s Exotic Dance: Torture!, the final entry in his “Showa Era trilogy”.

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