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Since Meiji

Perspectives on the Japanese Visual Arts, 1868-2000

J. Thomas Rimer

Publication Year: 2011

Research outside Japan on the history and significance of the Japanese visual arts since the beginning of the Meiji period (1868) has been, with the exception of writings on modern and contemporary woodblock prints, a relatively unexplored area of inquiry. In recent years, however, the subject has begun to attract wide interest. As is evident from this volume, this period of roughly a century and a half produced an outpouring of art created in a bewildering number of genres and spanning a wide range of aims and accomplishments. Since Meiji is the first sustained effort in English to discuss in any depth a time when Japan, eager to join in the larger cultural developments in Europe and the U.S., went through a visual revolution. Indeed, this study of the visual arts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries suggests a fresh history of modern Japanese culture—one that until now has not been widely visible or thoroughly analyzed outside that country.

In this extensive collection, which includes some 190 black-and-white and color reproductions, scholars from Japan, Europe, Australia, and America explore an impressive array of subjects: painting, sculpture, prints, fashion design, crafts, and gardens. The works discussed range from early Meiji attempts to create art that referenced Western styles to postwar and contemporary avant-garde experiments. There are, in addition, substantive investigations of the cultural and intellectual background that helped stimulate the creation of new and shifting art forms, including essays on the invention of a modern artistic vocabulary in the Japanese language and the history of art criticism in Japan, as well as an extensive account of the career and significance of perhaps the best-known Japanese figure concerned with the visual arts of his period, Okakura Tenshin (1862–1913), whose Book of Tea is still widely read today.

Taken together, the essays in this volume allow readers to connect ideas and images, thus bringing to light larger trends in the Japanese visual arts that have made possible the vitality, range, and striking achievements created during this turbulent and lively period.

Contributors: Stephen Addiss, Chiaki Ajioka, John Clark, Ellen Conant, Mikiko Hirayama, Michael Marra, Jonathan Reynolds, J. Thomas Rimer, Audrey Yoshiko Seo, Eric C. Shiner, Lawrence Smith, Shuji Tanaka, Reiko Tomii, Mayu Tsuruya, Toshio Watanabe, Gennifer Weisenfeld, Bert Winther-Tamaki, Emiko Yamanashi.

164 illus., 30 in color

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This volume was first planned to serve as the third volume in a projected series of three on the history of Japanese art, under the general editorship of Professor Samuel Morse, with the assistance of Quitman Phillips and myself. It is the first to be published.The subject of Japanese art and its shifting parameters after the beginning of the Meiji period is an extremely complex one, and the subject can be approached from a number ...

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pp. 1-16

When the project to create this volume was first conceived some years ago at the suggestion of Samuel Morse, it seemed difficult to imagine that there would soon be such a growth of interest, both among scholars and in the general public, in the arts of Japan in the twentieth century. When I first began my own research in this field in 1987, at the time I was helping to organize an exhibition titled Paris in Japan, there was virtually nothing...

Part I: Painting and the Allied Arts: From Meiji to the Present

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pp. 17-18

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Chapter 1: Western-Style Painting Four Stages of Acceptance

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pp. 19-33

The history of oil painting in Japan can be divided into four stages, which took place in a chronological order determined by Japan’s shifting relationship with the West. First, let me provide a brief overview of these four periods.The first stage might well be said to have taken place in about the middle of the eighteenth century, when a number of painters of the Satake clan in Akita began creating works ...

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Chapter 2: Japanese Painting from Edo to Meiji: Rhetoric and Reality

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pp. 34-65

Although the extensive research on Meiji painting produced during the past quarter- century reveals the rhetoric of Ernest F. Fenollosa (1853–1908) and his erstwhile pupil and colleague, Okakura Kakuzō, pen-name Tenshin (1862–1913), to be at variance with our current apprehension of reality, their views continue to dominate the prevailing narrative regarding the development of modern Japanese art.1 Art historians still subscribe, in vary-...

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Chapter 3: The Expanding Arts of the Interwar Period

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pp. 66-98

“Grab the Hand of 50,000 readers! Friend of the people, read the Musansha shinbun (Proletarian Times)” exclaims the bold red headline on Yanase Masamu’s now iconic 1927 poster for the Japanese communist party newspaper (see Plate 5). A large red hand, super-imposed on the front page of a mock newspaper, reaches out to seize the hand of the reader in a gesture of solidarity. Inspired by the revolutionary graphics of the Russian avant-...

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Chapter 4: Sensō Sakusen Kirokuga: Seeing Japan’s War Documentary Painting as a Public Monument

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pp. 99-123

The purpose of this chapter is to define and characterize the genre of painting that emerged as state-sponsored public art during the second Sino-Japanese War1 and the Pacific War2 between 1937 and 1945. This important work was called sensō sakusen kirokuga (war campaign documentary painting) for its depictions of Japanese military campaigns in Asia; today the term is often abbreviated to sensō kirokuga (war documentary...

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Chapter 5: From Resplendent Signs to Heavy Hands: Japanese Painting in War and Defeat, 1937–1952

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pp. 124-143

Japanese citizenship in the turbulent period of the late 1930s through the early 1950s was experienced by many as a sequence of abruptly shifting emotional extremes: euphoria, aggression, suffering, exhaustion, and resolve. Japanese people saw their nation rise to the summit of an enormous empire expanding across Asia and the Pacific Ocean, only to see that empire sharply peeled back to the shores of the four main islands of the Japanese ...

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Chapter 6: How Gendai Bijutsu Stole the “Museum”: An Institutional Observation of the Vanguard 1960s

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pp. 144-167

Art does not exist in vacuum. It exists and evolves in a larger context of history, society, and culture. Yet art also asserts its own internal life, each work of art comprising its own autonomous universe. Art engenders and inhabits its own environment, with individual artists more often than not operating in what is generally called the “art world” in modern times, which has its own history, society, and culture. Within this...

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Chapter 7: Fashion Altars, Performance Factors, and Pop Cells: Transforming Contemporary Japanese Art, One Body at a Time

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pp. 168-190

From the mid-1970s and into the first decade of the twenty-first century, Japanese contemporary artists who have engaged in the examination of that country’s popular culture have looked in equal measure to a variety of traditional aesthetic tropes for their formal inspiration, as well as to artwork from around the world for a novel means of commenting...

Part II: Japanese Art of the Period in Its Cultural Context

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pp. 191-192

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Chapter 8: The Creation of the Vocabulary of Aesthetics in Meiji Japan

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pp. 193-211

The formation in Japan of the notion of the “fine arts” (bijutsu; lit. “acts pertaining to beauty”) in the Western sense of the word took place during the early Meiji period (1868–1912), at the same time that the idea of “beauty” underwent a massive redefinition. If we accept the statement by the literary critic Kobayashi Hideo (1902–1983) that until the Meiji period in Japan there were beautiful cherry blossoms but no idea of beauty, we might even ...

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Chapter 9: Okakura Tenshin and Aesthetic Nationalism

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pp. 212-256

Okakura Kakuzō (1862–1913), more usually known by his sobriquet Tenshin, was that curious and specifically Meiji human product of Japan after the overthrow of the Edo military clan government, or bakufu. He was a student of Chinese, “Western,” Indian, and Japanese ideas and was interested both in art and theories of the state. He served as a government bureaucrat, but was also a poet and writer in both Japanese and English...

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Chapter 10: Japanese Art Criticism The First Fifty Years

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pp. 257-280

Japanese art theory underwent significant changes during the modern period. Treatises on art had proliferated in Japan from the seventeenth century onward, but they were essentially appropriations of Chinese art theory written for and by artists.1 Critical commentary on contemporary art for the mass audience did not arise in Japan until the 1880s. In the absence of professional critics, artists, novelists, and other intellectuals were recruited to fill ...

Part III Individual Forms of Expression

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pp. 281-282

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Chapter 11: Sculpture: Translated by Toshiko McCallum

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pp. 283-314

This has never been an easy question to answer, since the history of modern Japanese sculpture has generally been defined in terms of the sculpture produced under the influence of Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), beginning in about 1908. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to state that as far back as the late nineteenth century, substantial changes in the art of sculpture occurred. From the opening of Japan in the Meiji period, beginning in 1868, ...

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Chapter 12: Can Architecture Be Both Modern and “Japanese”?: The Expression of Japanese Cultural Identity through Architectural Practice from 1850 to the Present

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pp. 315-339

When, in the face of foreign encroachment, Japan leapt headlong into a race to modernize, many of the cultural practices that had defined Japanese identity in the past came into question. This process has been especially pronounced in architecture, a field that combines a thirst for new technology with the mastery of forms richly imbued with cultural values. The Japanese quickly seized upon the latest building technology made avail-...

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Chapter 13: The Modern Japanese Garden

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pp. 340-360

The modern Japanese garden is a multifaceted, complex, and fascinating subject. My aim here is not so much to give a survey of the modern Japanese garden but rather to investigate the meaning of the term to indicate how the meaning and significance of a garden could change with time and with different observers.1 The meaning of a modern Japanese garden cannot remain a single one. It depends on whose “meaning” it represents. The patron, the ...

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Chapter 14: Japanese Prints 1868–2008

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pp. 361-407

In 2008 there were many hundreds of independent printmakers in Japan (the Japanese Print Association listed more than 350 members in 2003).1 Most of them were now college-trained, though very few of them except the grandest of old practitioners could live by their art alone.2 Few of them belonged any longer to a recognizably coherent idealistic group. Colleges specializing in graphic techniques, such as Tokyo University of Fine ...

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Chapter 15: Aspects of Twentieth-Century Crafts: The New Craft and Mingei Movements

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pp. 408-444

The most significant development in twentieth-century Japanese craft was the emergence of awareness in craft makers that their works were first and foremost the creative expression of an individual. This consciousness represented modernity in Japanese craft, which will be the subject of this chapter. Accordingly, it will focus on the New Craft movement (Shinkō kōgei undō) and the Mingei movement and will exclude industrial craft and ...

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Chapter 16: Japanese Calligraphy since 1868

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pp. 445-470

In many ways, calligraphy (sho) has been the most traditional and conservative of Japanese arts since 1868, in part due to comparatively less influence from the West than in other media. At one time this led some modernizing Japanese to dismiss calligraphy since it did not fit into the Western artistic pantheon. During the artistic debates of the early Meiji period, an oil painter named Koyama Shōtarō wrote an essay in 1883 titled “Sho ...

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Chapter 17: Adoption, Adaptation, and Innovation: The Cultural and Aesthetic Transformations of Fashion in Modern Japan

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pp. 471-496

Is fashion art? Many would argue no. Fashion is functional; it affects society too broadly, too generally, too arbitrarily. Fashion is too commercial, merely a commodity. By its very definition, it is “fashion,” a fleeting trend, constantly changing, ethereal, and therefore too fickle to be considered classical and timeless as proper art should be. Others would argue yes. Its forms are sculptural, as in the gowns of Christian Dior ...


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pp. 497-500


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pp. 501-517

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861025
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824834418

Publication Year: 2011