The origin of the geisha as women performers began in the pleasure districts during the Sengoku era. Although these women first began as prostitutes, the lowest class of citizen in feudal Japan, the fondness of the high-caste warrior class for the company of women and the laws against different caste interactions gradually developed a higher standing for these women as they were trained in more sophisticated arts of entertainment. Traditionally these women didn't have to have sexual relations with the men that they entertained but were performers of seasonal dances, players of music, and skilled conversationalists who offered companionship and flirting romances with their customers.
Although traditional geisha culture has waned with the passing centuries, it is still an iconic symbol of femininity and beauty within Japanese culture. Contemporary artists, both in musical and painting categories, enjoy depicting these classic examples of Oriental culture. The key difference in traditional and modern representations of geisha is an important one. Whereas most traditional artists would paint a picture of the feminine ideal represented through geisha, modern artists are more concerned with the inner struggles and sexuality that these women represented and underwent.
The two forms of expression in this category of art, both traditional and contemporary, is radically different but no less emotive for their differences. All geisha art brings a sense of nostalgic wistfulness to the viewer, calling upon memories of love unrequited or strength concealed, which make it a powerfully unique form of artistic expression.