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This story is based on the novel "Jo no mai" by Tomiko Miyao which is based on the life of painter Shōen Uemura (1875–1949), the first woman to be awarded the Order of Culture. The title refers to the masterpiece bijinga ("picture of a beautiful woman") that Uemura painted at the age of 61. The main character, Tsuya Shimamura, is born in Kyoto as the second daughter of a tea trader who dies before her birth. Tsuya, who loves painting more than anything and is hopeless at housework, attends art school and at age 15 receives the name Shōsui (from the characters for "pine" and "green") from her teacher. The crown prince of England purchases one of her works, propelling her to fame overnight. The novel portrays the remainder of her stormy life, during which she is impregnated by her teacher and raises a fatherless child; through it all she devotes herself to her painting, undaunted.