Meiji Art and Visual Culture: A Symposium in Conjunction with the Exhibition "Meiji Modern: Fifty Years of New Japan"

May 3-4, 2024
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Registration is required.

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Disorienting urban transformation, boundless enthusiasm for new technologies and cultures, increased international trade, and rising geopolitical tensions: these circumstances defined Japan’s Meiji era (1868-1912) as much as they describe our own. Taken together with the final decade of the Tokugawa shoguns’ regime, in which Yokohama and other ports opened to direct trade with the US and other nations, this period constitutes “fifty years of new Japan.”

The phrase “fifty years of new Japan” was used by Prime Minister Ōkuma Shigenobu in a book meant to look back on the nation’s progress since kaikoku, literally, the “opening of the country” to global trade, representative government, and unprecedented freedom of expression. While the changes wrought upheaval and uncertainty, many people, including artists, saw the Meiji period as a time of new possibilities and aspirations, global exchange, and progress. Against this backdrop, art emerged as one of Japan’s most profitable industries and a singular means of representing the modern nation-state: in Japan and abroad, art filled international expositions, domestic halls of industry, and private residences. These objects embodied the civic ambitions of Japanese artists and politicians, showcased Japan’s manufacturing capabilities, and displayed the unparalleled skill and sensibility of individual artists who enjoyed recognition on the world stage for the first time.

The “modern” of Meiji Modern refers not only to stylistic modernism, the formal movement associated with Art Nouveau, abstraction, and the rejection of classical models. The title also references artists’ and viewers’ heightened self-consciousness that they were living in the modern era. Meiji art is suffused with enthusiasm for innovative technique. Artists manipulated traditional mediums and materials to achieve dazzling effects unseen —and unimaginable— in previous epochs.

This symposium brings together leading scholars of Meiji art and culture from the United States, Great Britain, and Japan in order to reevaluate an artistic period described in terms of both continuity and change, westernization and the invention of Japanese tradition.

The Meiji Modern exhibition is at the Smart Museum of Art.
The Symposium takes place at International House.


Friday, May 3

3:00 PM | Welcome and opening remarks

3:15 PM | Chelsea Foxwell (University of Chicago)
"Meiji Art in the Context of US-Japan Relations"

4:00 PM | Keynote Lecture: Satō Dōshin, Professor Emeritus, Tokyo University of the Arts (Japanese with English translation)
"Hybrid Art in the Logic of 'Leave Asia, Enter Europe': Japanese Style Painting and Western Style Painting, the Past and the Present"

A light reception will take place immediately following the program.


Saturday, May 4

9:00 AM | Welcome

9:15 AM | Andreas Marks (Minneapolis Institute of Art)
"The Last Man Standing: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi's Depictions of the Final Days of the Samurai"

9:45 AM | Bradley Bailey (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)
"From Ancient Myth to Modern History: Aoki Shigeru's Wadatsumi no Irokonomiya"

10:15 AM | Q&A

10:30 AM | Break

11:00AM | Alison Miller (University of the South)
"Imaging the Ideal Woman: Empress Shoken in Meiji Woodblock Prints"

11:30 AM | Rhiannon Paget (The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art)
"Ainu Mosir and the Floating World"

12:00 PM | Q&A

12:30 PM | Lunch (for participants and registered guests)

1:45 PM | Michael Bourdaghs (University of Chicago)
"Seeing Writing, Writing Seeing: Imagetext in Natsume Sōseki"

2:15 PM | Eriko Tomizawa-Kay (University of East Anglia)
"Mōrōtai and Artistic Cultural Dialogues: Hishida Shunsō’s (1874-1911) Cultural Exchange & Hybridity of Color in India, 1903"

2:45 PM | Alice Tseng (Boston University)
"Between the Ivory City and the Philippine Villages: Architectural Expositions of Japan at the Fairs and After"

3:15 PM | Q&A

3:30 PM | Break

4:00 PM | Mami Hatayama (Weston Collection)
"Shibata Zeshin’s Haikai Related Works and the Vibrancy of Edo Culture in Meiji"

4:30 PM | Meghen Jones (Alfred University)
"The Ceramic Vessel in Meiji Japan: Modernity, Hybridity, and the Emergence of 'Art Craft'"

5:00 PM | Takurō Tsunoda (Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History)
"One More Golden Age in the History of Japanese Lacquer"

5:30 PM | Q&A


Sunday, May 5

Graduate Student Workshop, Cochrane-Woods Art Center Room 157
Discussants: Bradley Bailey, Chelsea Foxwell, Mami Hatayama, Satō Dōshin, Takurō Tsunoda

  • Lillian Wies (University of Maryland, College Park)
    A Copy? Kametaka Fumiko and the Perpetuation of Feminine Stereotypes in Modern Japanese Art
  • Mariko Azuma (Duke University)
    The Lure of Confōto: Imaging Japan’s Early Hotels in the Meiji Era
  • Helen Swift (Harvard University)
    Kuroda Seiki’s Art Worlds: Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment in Tokyo and Paris
  • Taylor Chisato Stewart (University of Chicago)
    Shibata Zeshin and the Construction of Kōgei
  • Tsutomu Nagata (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
  • Minori Egashira (University of Chicago)
  • Zane Casimir (UC Irvine)
    Playing in/around/beyond the Pavilion: The Ludic Relationality of Asakusa's Ryōunkaku

Chelsea Foxwell is Associate Professor of Art History, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College at the University of Chicago and co-curator of Meiji Modern. Dr. Foxwell’s scholarship ranges from the medieval through modern periods of Japanese art with special emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. She is the author of Making Modern Japanese-Style Painting: Kano Hōgai and the Search for Images (2015). In 2012 she co-curated the exhibition Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints with Anne Leonard at the Smart Museum of Art. Her recent research includes essays on Kitao Masayoshi (Kuwagata Keisai), Edo-period printed painting manuals (gafu), and Meiji photography.

Satō Dōshin is former Professor of Art History and Aesthetics, Tokyo University of the Arts. He is the author of dozens of articles and several books, including Nihon bijutsu tanjō: Kindai nihon no ‘kotoba’ to senryaku (1996) [The Birth of ‘Japanese Art’: Words and Strategies of Modern Japan]; Modern Japanese Art and the Meiji State The Politics of Beauty (Getty Publications, 2011) (trans. Hiroshi Nara), which was originally published in 1999 as Meiji kokka to kindai bijutsu and awarded the Suntory Prize; and Bijutsu to aidentitii: dare no tame ni, nan no tame ni (2007) [Art and Identity: For Whose Purpose, For What Purpose?]. He is especially known for his mentorship of scholars in Japan and around the world, and his writing on modern Japanese art has been translated into English, Korean, and Chinese. Among his first and most important articles are those that resulted from his research into Kangakai (Painting Appreciation Society) artists at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Since 2013, Dr. Andreas Marks is the Mary Griggs Burke Curator of Japanese and Korean Art and Director of the Clark Center at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. He has a master's degree in East Asian Art History from the University of Bonn, and a Ph.D. from Leiden University in the Netherlands. With over 19 years of experience in the field of Japanese art, he hsas curated over 60 exhibitions at 38 institutions in the world including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and the Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan, some of which have been reviewed in the Wall Street Journal or New York Times. Dr. Marks has lectured at 43 institutions in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and is an award-winning author of 22 books and countless essays about various aspects of Japanese art. Amongst his most recent publications are "Japanese Yokai and Other Supernatural Beings" and "Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: The Definitive Collector's Edition".

Bradley M. Bailey, co-curator of Meiji Modern, has served as the inaugural Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Curator of Asian Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston since 2017. Previously, he was the first Associate Curator of Asian Art at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and inaugural Carpenter Foundation Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Amherst College's Mead Art Museum, where he taught courses in Japanese prints and catalogued the collection of William Green, founder of the Ukiyo-e Society of America, forerunner to the Japanese Art Society of America. Dr. Bailey earned his B.A., M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in art history, as well as his M.B.A., with emphasis on nonprofit management and museums, from Yale University. His publications include essays in the exhibition catalogue for Flash of Light, Fog of War: Prints of the Japanese Military 1894–1905, along with essays on the work of Hokusai and on prints from the Sino-Japanese War of 1895. His current projects include an exhibition of Zen paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection (co-curated with Professor Yukio Lippit, Harvard University) and the American debut exhibition of the monumental Formosa Evergreen Scroll, the world's largest collaborative Chinese ink painting, scheduled for summer 2021.

Alison J Miller is Associate Professor of Art History and Director of Asian Studies at the University of the South (Sewanee). Her scholarship focuses on gender, the imperial family, and images of women across visual media in late 19th and early 20th century Japan. She is co-editor of The Visual Culture of Meiji Japan: Negotiating the Transition to Modernity (Routledge, 2021) and Transposed Memory: Visual Sites of National Recollection in 20th and 21st century East Asia (Brill, 2024), as well as a forthcoming book manuscript on images of the modern Japanese empresses.

Rhiannon Paget is the Curator of Asian Art at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. She has published research on paintings, textiles, popular visual culture, and especially woodblock prints, most recently Divine Felines: The Cat in Japanese Art (2023). She has curated numerous exhibitions, including Mountains of the Mind: Scholars’ Rocks in China and Beyond (2023–24), and Saitō Kiyoshi: Graphic Awakening (2021).

Michael K. Bourdaghs is the Robert S. Ingersoll Distinguished Service Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the College at the University of Chicago. He has published widely in the fields of modern Japanese literature, culture, and music and is also active as a translator. His books include A Fictional Commons: Natsume Sōseki and the Properties of Modern Literature (2021), Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical History of J-Pop (2012), and The Dawn That Never Comes: Shimazaki Tōson and Japanese Nationalism (2003).

Eriko Tomizawa-Kay is the Toyota Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan (2023-24) and a lecturer at the University of East Anglia. She specialises in modern Japanese art, particularly nihonga. She is co-editor with Toshio Watanabe of East Asian Art History in a Transnational Context (Routledge, 2019).

Alice Y. Tseng is Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Humanities at Boston University. She is the editor in chief of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Her research focuses on the art, architecture, and visual culture of Japan, especially the 19th and 20th centuries. Her last book was Modern Kyoto: Building for Ceremony and Commemoration, 1868-1940 (University of Hawai`i Press, 2018), and she is currently writing a book on Japan at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.

Mami Hatayama is the curator of the Weston Collection in Chicago, where she has been managing the collection of lacquer and paintings, and organizing exhibitions. She was a co-editor of the exhibition catalogue Painting the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection (2018).

Meghen Jones is Associate Professor of Art History at Alfred University. Her research centers on modern Japanese art, design, and global flows of ceramics. Recent projects include co-editing the book Ceramics and Modernity in Japan and curating the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum exhibition, with a forthcoming multi-author catalogue, Path of the Teabowl.

Takurō Tsunoda is Chief Curator of the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History. Following an MA from the University of Tokyo and doctoral study at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Tsunoda was appointed curator at the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History. His broad-ranging research interests in modern Japanese art history include Meiji yōga (especially the Goseda school), Kaburaki Kiyokata and modern nihonga, and Meiji woodblock prints centering around Ōkura Magobei. He has recently published on yokohama-e in the journal Kindai gasetsu (2022) and is the curator of the exhibition The Dynamism of Japanese Lacquerware Made for Export, currently on view at the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History (2024).

Satō Dōshin 佐藤道信 (Tokyo University of the Arts)

Hybrid Art in the Logic of “Leave Asia, Enter Europe”: Japanese Style Painting and Western Style Painting, The Past and the Present


My presentation advances two main points of inquiry. First, I suggest that modern Japanese art, while fundamentally pursuing a course of Westernization, was in fact charting a hybrid mode of being that knit together Japan, the West, the East, the past (history), and the present. Second, that composite quality, while appearing disorderly, actually functioned in a flexible, adaptive manner to balance internationalism and locality, historicism and the present, as if through a division of labor. In other words, somewhere within modern Japanese art is a system that can respond to any one of those geographical or temporal factors.. 



Chelsea Foxwell (University of Chicago)

Meiji Art in the Context of US-Japan Relations

In the late nineteenth century, individual artists and collectors in Japan and the United States expressed immense enthusiasm for each other’s artistic traditions. Art also served in a semi-official capacity to facilitate diplomatic relations between the two countries. This presentation will focus on the years between the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893) and the end of the first Sino-Japanese War in 1895. Shortly after the war’s conclusion, the Japanese government sent a monumental hand-woven tapestry of the Aoi Matsuri (Aoi Festival) to the widow of US Secretary of State Walter Q. Gresham. This presentation delves into the history and making of this astonishing gift, which was first exhibited in Chicago in 1896 and returns in 2024 as part of the Meiji Modern exhibition.


Andreas Marks (Minneapolis Museum of Art)

The Last Man Standing: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s Depictions of the Final Days of the Samurai

Active during a time of drastic and disruptive social change, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892) is considered the last major ukiyo-e artist. He was born into a merchant family and became a student of

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798–1861) in the early 1850s. His earliest published print dates from 1853. Initially he designed beautiful women and actors in the Utagawa school style but then shifted towards realism. In 1858, he became an independent artist and focused on historical subjects. He designed series such as Twenty-eight Famous Sufferings (Eimei nijūhasshuku) which are gruesome and bloody depictions of famous stories.

In early 1868, during the reestablishment of imperial control over Japan, several battles were fought between pro-imperialists of Emperor Meiji and supporters of the previous Tokugawa shogunate. One was the Battle of Ueno on July 4 with the Shōgitai, a former Tokugawa police unit in Edo (today’s Tokyo). Yoshitoshi reportedly went to the battlefield and witnessed the fighting. The sketches he drew were then used for the print series One Hundred Types Selected by Yoshitoshi (Kaidai hyakusen sō) which comprises 65 portraits. Production of this series began already two months after the battle and during that time, Yoshitoshi also drew at least one painting related to the Battle of Ueno. The almost life-size hanging scroll dramatically captures one of the Shōgitai samurai during his last breaths. The painting was published in 1931 and has recently been rediscovered and acquired by the Minneapolis Institute of Art. This talk will look into the painting’s genesis and context.


Bradley Bailey (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)

From Ancient Myth to Modern History: Aoki Shigeru’s Wadatsumi no Irokonomiya

Aoki Shigeru is often described as a Meiji “Romanticist” painter, however an examination of his artistic output reveals great experimentation with a wide variety of styles and artistic sources. By examining Aoki’s training at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, his extensive essays and diary entries, and his source material, especially for his “Paradise Beneath the Sea” (“Wadatsumi no Irokonomiya”, 1907), this paper posits his artistic output, above all his History paintings, as projects of painstaking historical, archaeological, and even botanical research, all in pursuit of a scientifically and historically accurate rendition of a mythical episode from the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters). While Aoki dove deep into the past — and beneath the waves off Kyushu — to (re)create the mythical Japanese past, his methods and sources actually reveal a heavy reliance on newly emergent technologies, all of which indelibly shaped his view of Japan’s ancient past and, crucially, its ambivalent future.


Alison Miller (University of the South)

Imaging the Ideal Woman: Empress Shoken in Meiji Woodblock Prints

Soon after her marriage in 1869, Empress Shōken became the first Japanese empress with a visible presence outside of the palace. Through her appearances in woodblock prints, which show her public visits and stylish fashions, the image of Shōken defined the position of empress in modern Japan. These prints served a didactic function, providing the Japanese public with a means to learn about this new royal position and about the proper comportment and activities of imperial and aristocratic women. As a public persona, Shōken often utilized the optics of European royalty, but as a means of manipulation, not imitation, and balanced with complimentary scenes of historically inspired Japanese palace life and attire. Carefully crafted under the oversight of the Imperial Household Agency, the feminine sovereign image utilized the power of representation to exert domestic political influence. This talk examines elements of visually imagined cultural encounter and exchange in prints featuring Empress Shōken in the 1880s and 1890s in order to analyze the social and political impacts of the messaging envisioned within the disparate settings and sartorial selections featured in Meiji print culture.


Rhiannon Paget (The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art)

The Floating World and Ainu Mosir

During the first decades of the Meiji period (1868–1912), followers of Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) turned to new horizons to satisfy consumers of scenic landscape prints. They created jubilant images of Japan’s cities transformed with Western-style buildings, modern infrastructure, and citizens bravely navigating rapid change.

Japan’s expansionist project provided further opportunity for artists and publishers. In 1870, Higashi Honganji Temple, a major Buddhist sect, together with the Meiji government, undertook a "civilizing" mission into the newly annexed northern island of Hokkaidō. One component of it was the construction of roads to facilitate access to its people and rich natural resources, and to make it easier to defend from foreign incursion. More than 5000 people were mobilized to build the 60-mile road, including former samurai, new settlers from the mainland, political prisoners, and conscripts from amongst the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan and eastern Siberia.

To commemorate this expedition, Kansendō published a set of 16 prints known as Pictures of the 1870 Hokkaidō Preaching Mission of Gennyo Shōnin, Higashi Honganji Temple (Meiji san nen Higashi Honganji Gennyo Shōnin Hokkaidō junshaku ezu), which were designed by Utagawa Kuniteru II (1830–1874), Utagawa Hiroshige III (1842–1894), and Kobayashi Eitaku (1843–1890). The series is one of the earliest, widely circulated documents relating to the colonization of Ainu Mosir, as Hokkaidō is known to its native people. This talk will discuss the propagandistic narrative of the expedition presented by the prints: the untamed terrain, the bravery and perseverance of the missionaries, the natural bounty that awaited them, and the friendly cooperation of the Ainu and forced laborers.


Michael Bourdaghs (University of Chicago)

Seeing Writing, Writing Seeing: Imagetext in Natsume Sōseki

This paper examines works by the prominent novelist Natsume Sōseki, notably his 1908 novel Sanshirō, in the context of a new discourse that emerged in the Meiji period about the proper relationship between two regimes of artistic representation: the verbal art of literary representation and the visual arts of painting and drawing. Drawing on W.J.T. Mitchell’s notion of “imagetext,” the paper explores ways in which Sōseki creatively played with blurring the boundary between the two regimes.


Eriko Tomizawa-Kay (University of East Anglia)

 Mōrōtai and Artistic Cultural Dialogues: Hishida Shunsō’s (1874-1911) Cultural Exchange & Hybridity of Color in India, 1903

This presentation explores the complex transcultural art dialogues between Meiji nihonga and Indian Bengal artists, focusing on Hishida Shunsō’s crucial role in establishing the mōrōtai (lit. hazy form) and fostering the artistic exchanges between Japan and India. Through an examination of various primary sources, such as the official documents, the artist’s writings, newspaper reports, Abanindranath Tagore’s memoir and the empirical observations of artworks, this presentation unveils Shunsō’s ground-breaking artistic style mōrōtai, and its relationship with Indian paintings. I argue that the development of nihonga painting during the late Meiji period, particularly mōrōtai, was closely related to the cultural exchanges between Japan and India.

This paper consists of two parts. First, it scrutinizes Shunsō’s dialogues in India during the Meiji era and reveals how these experiences influenced and shaped his artistic expression. The visual evidence suggests that Shunsō’s specific works fused Japanese and Indian artistic elements, which challenges the predominant narrative centring on the Euro-American influence in the previous scholarship. Despite being overshadowed by contemporaries such as Yokoyama Taikan (1686–1958), Shunsō’s exploration of India’s cultural identity and independent movement profoundly impacted his artistic practice, showcasing a nuanced transnational dialogue between Japanese and Indian art.

The second part of this presentation discusses the specific cultural influences from India that shaped Shunsō’s mōrōtai and his artistic journey in India. Shunsō’s unique blending of Japanese and Indian colour sensibility and techniques marked a significant departure from his contemporaries, such as Yokoyama Taikan. 

In conclusion, this paper illuminates how Shunsō navigated and negotiated multiple artistic traditions, catalyzing the transformation of Japanese and Indian cultural expressions in the late Meiji period. By acknowledging India as a source of inspiration for Shunsō, who facilitated the cross-cultural dialogues between Japan and India, the narrative of Meiji nihonga gains depth and complexity. This presentation aims to provide a nuanced understanding of Shunsō’s artistic journey, the cultural exchange between Japan and India, and the emergence of mōrōtai as a transnational art form.


Alice Tseng (Boston University)

 Between the Ivory City and the Philippine Villages: Architectural Expositions of Japan at the Fairs and After

The question of how to read Japanese architecture in the period between 1850s to 1945 has vexed scholars: was it technologically and culturally colonized, uniquely independent, or strategically colonizing? Using the example of world’s fairs held in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century, this presentation examines ways of interpreting buildings and spaces that represented Japan by design. Taking into consideration that Japan participated as one foreign entity among many foreigners of varying global stature, its positionality as a deviant from the canon framed the delivery of and reception of Japan. A deliberate play between familiar and strange structured the transnational expositions that used combinations of objects, spaces, and performances in experimental ways.


Mami Hatayama (Weston Collection)

Shibata Zeshin’s Haikai-Related Works and the Vibrancy of Edo Culture in Meiji

Shibata Zeshin (1807–1891) is an artist who worked both in lacquer and painting and stands out for his distinctive style in the nineteenth century. In the Meiji era (1868–1912), he was engaged in some official works and activities. For example, he participated in art societies, exhibited his works at World Expositions and national exhibitions, as well as served as judge at national exhibitions and competitive workshops. He invented new formats of expressions such as lacquer plaques and lacquer paintings (urushi-e). Moreover, Zeshin also produced works for the Emperor, the Imperial household, and the government. At the end of his life, he was appointed as one of the first Imperial Household Artists. There are a few recent research works on Zeshin that focus on these aspects in Meiji.

However, it bears noting that his artistic basis and his name had already been well-established during the Edo period (1603–1868). This presentation will look into Zeshin’s works related to haikai poetry circles. Composing haikai, comic verse poems, became extremely popular particularly from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the early Meiji era, in both the cities and the countryside. Though Zeshin’s haikai-related works are often rather modest in design, they were commissioned works that were created in response to particular tastes. Also, it is an area that Zeshin worked in throughout his career. Therefore, they importantly reveal some of Zeshin’s underlying artistic essence. This presentation will explore the aspects of Zeshin’s haikai-related works that continued from Edo to Meiji and how the state of production also shifted in Meiji. Looking at this essential area of Zeshin’s work, which is perhaps the area currently being discussed least, should also elucidate what has been innovative in the artist’s overall production in the Meiji era.


Meghen Jones (Alfred University)

The Ceramic Vessel in Meiji Japan: Modernity, Hybridity, and the Emergence of “Art Craft”

In recent years, a surge of interest in ceramic vessels (utsuwa) in Japan has resulted in what has been described an “utsuwa boom.” Such vessels possess utilitarian forms, but are understood primarily for their symbolic, individualistic, and conceptual expressions—in short, they are valued as “art.” While the conceptual and metaphoric potential of vessels is a mainstay of contemporary art in many parts of the world, local contexts have conditioned expression and interpretation. Historically in Japan, ceramics and other mediums of craft have long been highly valued within elite forms of culture such as the tea ceremony. But were those objects always understood as “art”? When did the notion of utsuwa as “art” first develop, and why?

It is well known that in the Meiji era, a clear division between “craft” and “art” emerged. This craft/art binary echoed Euro-American hierarchies of art positioning painting and sculpture as the highest art forms. Then a hybridized term arose to refer to artistic craft, bijutsu kōgei (art craft). In 1887, bijutsu kōgei was used to describe the third division of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts’ curriculum. In 1890, the Imperial Museum described one of the four divisions of its objects on display as bijutsu kōgeiBijutsu kōgei would remain an important categorization of artistic objects through the twentieth century.

This presentation will explore the meaning of the ceramic vessel in the Meiji era according to new ways of understanding art, craft, and “art craft” within an international context, particularly that of the late nineteenth century British Arts and Crafts movement. By looking at Meiji era publications and exhibitions in Japan and beyond, we may begin to trace the development of the modern ceramic utsuwa according to particular modes of presentation and valuation. While many Meiji era publications and exhibitions highlighted objects’ technical virtuosity in order to promote industry and exports, shifts in the underlying understanding of the ceramic vessel also occurred, laying the foundation for current ways of seeing ceramic vessels as art.


Takurō Tsunoda (Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History)

 Modern Export Lacquerware: The Gap Between Modern Japanese Art and Industry

The lacquerware produced in Japan for foreign export has not been the object of sufficient research in Japan. This owes to the fact that first, few such works have remained in Japan; second, such works were held in low repute due to their allegedly “unrefined quality resulting from overproduction.” For years, there were few initiatives to study export lacquerware, but recent years have seen efforts to reevaluate all types of art made for export. As studies of each lacquer-producing region have proceeded apace, the environment for conducting research has greatly improved. Further, through opportunities such as the Meiji Modern exhibition, outstanding examples of lacquer that have traveled to America have now emerged and are becoming easier to study. In light of these circumstances, our presentation seeks to emphasize the appeal of modern export lacquerware. We will also explore some of the most interesting research questions currently under consideration in Japan, such as the gap between art and other societal factors in the context of lacquerware production. Specifically, we seek to consider the relation between art and industry. We would like to assert that modern export lacquerware bears new potential to impact the field of modern Japanese art historical research.

This program is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies (with generous support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the U.S. Department of Education), the Smart Museum of Art, the Center for the Art of East Asia, and the International House Global Voices Program at the University of Chicago.