Studies of Japanese Art by Period

Meiji (1868-1912)

The best survey of Meiji art (excluding Western-style painting) is Frederick Baekeland's exhibition catalogue, Imperial Japan: The Art of the Meiji Era, 1868-1912 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, 1980). Also useful is Meiji: Japanese Art in Transition, edited by Robert Schaap (The Hague: Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1987), a catalogue of an exhibition of lacquer, prints, and Japanese-style paintings. Barry Till, The Arts of Meiji Japan, 1868-1912: Changing Aesthetics (Victoria, B.C.: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1995) is an exhibition catalogue with a rather routine introduction of some 20 pages, and illustrations (mostly black and white) of about 140 objects, mostly prints but also ceramics, cloisonné, lacquerware, sculpture (ivory, wood, metal), etc., many made for export to the West. Persons whose taste runs to such things as early Buddhist painting and sculpture or Kamakura emaki or Edo screens (whether Kano or Rinpa or whatever) will not find much that gives delight here. This ware - with highly detailed enamel decoration - is not to be confused with the earlier ware characterized by a cream-colored body and a clear but somewhat yellowish glaze. For a lavish presentation of Meiji art, see a five-volume collection (actually, eight books, since some volumes consist of more than one book), Oliver Impey and Malcolm Fairley, Meiji no takara: Treasures of Imperial Japan (London: Kibo Foundation, 1995). These abundantly illustrated volumes set forth objects in the Nasser D. Kahlili Collection as follows: volume 1, lacquer; volume 2, in two parts (360 color plates), metalwork; volume 3, enamels; volume 4, lacquer (in two parts); volume 5, ceramics (in two parts). Also illustrating the Kahlili collection is Joe Earl, Shibata Zeshin: Masterpieces of Japanese Lacquer (London: Kibo Foundation, 1997), with 311 color plates, showing paintings and lacquer objects (inro and large-scale pieces). Satsuma, a Meiji ceramic ware made for export, is the subject of a book by Louis Lawrence, Satsuma (London: Dauphin Publishing, 1991), with almost 100 pieces illustrated in color. For bronzes, cloisonné, and lacquer, see Oliver Impey and Malcolm Fairley, The Dragon King of the Sea: Japanese Decorative Art of the Meiji Period from the John R. Young Collection (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991). For metal only, see Joe Earle, Flower Bronzes of Japan (London: M. Goedhuis, 1995). We have also heard of, but not seen or been able to trace, Masterpieces of Meiji Metalwork. (London: Barry Davies Oriental Art, 1991).

On Japan's encounter with the West, see Julia Meech-Pekarik, The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization (New York: Weatherhill, 1986), a highly informative book that examines, through a popular medium, Japan's keen interest in Western culture during the late 19th century. Ann Yonemura, Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1990) is a catalogue of an exhibition of 19th-century photographs and newspaper drawings and some 85 color prints of Yokohama and its first foreign residents, from 1859 to the 1870s. The interest is chiefly sociological rather than artistic. Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, In Battle's Light: Woodblock Prints of Japan's Early Modern Wars (Worcester, Mass.: Worcester Art Museum, 1991) reproduces in color 80 triptychs of prints of Japan engaged in Western-style war (the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War), and informatively discusses the social context as well as the artistry of each work.

On the crisis in Japanese art evoked by opening the door to the West, see John M. Rosenfield, "Western-style Painting in the Early Meiji Period and Its Critics," in Tradition and Modernization in Japanese Culture, edited by Donald H. Shively (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971). Paris in Japan (Tokyo: Japan Foundation, 1987) is a highly informative exhibition catalogue showing 77 Japanese oil paintings (1890 to 1930) influenced by French art. Minoru Harada, Meiji Western Painting, translated by Akiko Murakata, adapted by Bonnie F. Abiko (New York: Weatherhill, 1974) is valuable for its abundant illustrations.

The sights of Meiji Japan were recorded by the print artist Kobayashi Kiyochika, whose work is abundantly illustrated, with highly informative comments about the scenes, in Henry D. Smith II, Kiyochika: Artist of Meiji Japan (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988). Photographers, too, recorded Meiji Japan. See Margarita Winkel, Souvenirs from Japan: Japanese Photography at the Turn of the Century (London: Bamboo, 1991), and Japan Photographers Association, A Century of Japanese Photography (New York: Pantheon, 1980).

There is much more interest today in the Meiji period than there was when this bibliography was first prepared, partly because the academic study of art has been moving away from connoisseurship to a more socially and politically based study - from, one could say, text to context. An interesting book that concentrates on the social context of art collecting is Christine Guth, Art, Tea, and Industry: Masuda Takashi and the Mitsui Circle (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993). Guth examines the relationships circa 1900 between art collecting and the tea ceremony on the one hand and, on the other hand, the business activities of the director of the Mitsui conglomerate, Masuda Takashi (1848-1938).

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