female beauty (bijinga)
Japanese woodcuts were deeply rooted in the worldly culture of Edo (modern-day Tokyo), which was characterised by amusement and pleasure. This explains the enormous popularity of prints of beautiful women (bijinga).
Some artists depicted actual courtesans or geishas, complete with their names and a description. Others focused on more generic depictions. With their clothing, gestures and facial expressions, they fulfilled an idealised image of femininity.
Van Gogh's bijinga
It appears that Van Gogh was also somewhat seduced by the bijinga. Prints of beautiful women make up a large part of his collection.
He may have also been attracted to the patterns on their kimonos, and the rich landscapes against which the women were depicted.
The Japanese artists devoted a great deal of attention to the richly-decorated kimonos, accessories and ingenious hairstyles.
The depicted women therefore became style icons in their own right, influencing the fashion of their time.