Though in western cultures, suntans are appreciated for their indication of good health and a leisurely lifestyle, the Japanese standard remained quite different even up to the mid-1960s. Since ancient times, Asian cultures have idealized lighter complexions because they indicated a person’s privileged status. Those people living richly enough to remain indoors maintained a whiter complexion by avoiding work outside in the sun. Expanding out of this lineage of traditional thinking, Shiseido Cosmetics radically adopted the theme “Beloved by the Sun” for their summer campaign in 1966. This advertising campaign promoted the health beauty of tanned skin as a way to introduce the idea that tanned skin was part of a woman’s right to be beautiful.

For this poster advertising sun oil, designer Shin Matsunaga photographed more than 1,500 different people at the beach, always at the same time of day so that the shadows remained consistent.  The individual figures were then collaged together against a white background. In a second poster from the same 1971 series (1992-144-31), this time advertising Shiseido’s Beauty Cake (a compact bronzer), the same beach scene is shown with only the female figures remaining. By using photographs of real Japanese people tanning on the beach, Matsunaga commented on the mutable standards of idealized beauty pioneered by the “Beloved by the Sun” campaign.

Matsunaga began working in the advertising division of Shiseido Co, Ltd. after graduating from the design course at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1964. These posters received the Tsusan Daijin (The Ministry of International Trade and Industry) Award and The Tokyo Art Directors Club ADC Prize in 1971. That same year, Matsunaga founded Shin Matsunaga Design Inc. In addition to his numerous works for Shiseido cosmetics, Matsunaga is renowned for his posters PEACE, as well as for the creation of the corporate identity design for Issey Miyake Inc.

Kristina Parsons is a Masters student in the History of Decorative Arts and Design program at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum/ Parsons New School for Design. After graduating from Columbia University in 2013 with a background in Art History, she is pursuing her interests in costume history and contemporary design while assisting the Drawing, Prints and Graphic Design curatorial department as an MA Fellow. 

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