Born as Saito Akira, Torii Kotondo was adopted into the Torii family of famous printmakers in 1915. In 1917, he began studying painting and printmaking at the school of Kiyokata Kaburagi. His first woodblock print, “Applying Powder,” was published in 1929, before which he had contributed illustrations and woodcuts to Entertainment Illustrated Magazine. Kotondo is most widely known as a painter, but is also famous for his twenty-one bijin-ga woodblock prints depicting beautiful women.
In Japanese tradition, Torii adopted different names throughout his working career, to reflect his status at the time or to honor his predecessors and mentors. His early paintings are signed “Masahiko,” and “Kotondo” was used to sign all of his bijin-ga prints, as it was given to him by his adoptive father. During his career, Kotondo was also known as Kiyonobu (a tribute to his former master) and as Kiyotada (in honor of his father).