Explore the Beautiful Pages of the 1902 Japanese Design Magazine Shin-Bijutsukai: European Modernism Meets Traditional Japanese Design

We read much about the role of Japanism in the art of late 19th Europe and North Amer­i­ca. “The craze for all things Japan­ese,” writes the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go, “was launched in 1854 when Amer­i­can Com­modore Matthew Per­ry forced Japan to recom­mence inter­na­tion­al trade after two cen­turies of vir­tu­al iso­la­tion.” Britain, the Con­ti­nent, and the U.S. were awash in Japan­ese art and arti­facts and ideas about the pre-indus­tri­al puri­ty of Japan­ese forms pro­lif­er­at­ed. “West­ern­ers were… drawn to tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese artis­tic expres­sion because of its ties to the nat­ur­al world. Japan­ese artists in all media treat­ed the sub­jects of birds, flow­ers, land­scapes, and the sea­sons.”

West­ern­ers like Louis Com­fort Tiffany emu­lat­ed these pat­terns in their designs, and they appeared in the work of van Gogh and Gau­guin. We may be famil­iar with how much the admi­ra­tion for Japan­ese wood­cuts, fur­ni­ture, archi­tec­ture, and poet­ry influ­enced Impres­sion­ism, the Arts and Crafts Move­ment, and ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry Mod­ernism.

We may not know that the influ­ence was mutu­al, with Japan­ese artists devel­op­ing their own forms of Art Deco, Euro­pean-influ­enced Mod­ernism and a nation­al­ist Japan­ese Arts and Crafts Move­ment called “Mingei” that was heav­i­ly inspired by ear­li­er British artists who had them­selves been inspired by the Japan­ese.

An ear­li­er exam­ple of the cross-cul­tur­al exchange in the arts between Europe and Japan can be seen here in these prints from Shin-Bijut­sukai (新美術海)… a Japan­ese design mag­a­zine that was edit­ed by illus­tra­tor and design­er Korin Furuya (1875–1910),” notes Spoon and Tam­a­go. These images come from a col­lec­tion of issues from 1901 to 1902, bound togeth­er in a huge 353-page design book (view it online at the Inter­net Archive or the Pub­lic Domain Review). We can see in the tra­di­tion­al images of flow­ers and birds the influ­ence of indus­tri­al design as well as “hints of art nou­veau and oth­er influ­ences of the time” from Euro­pean graph­ic arts.

There was a reluc­tance among many Japan­ese artists to acknowl­edge their debts to West­ern artists, a symp­tom, writes Wendy Jones Nakan­ishi, pro­fes­sor at Shikoku Gakuin Uni­ver­si­ty, of “the ambiva­lence felt by many Japan­ese towards the rapid west­ern­iza­tion of their coun­try at the cost of the loss of indige­nous cul­tur­al prac­tices.” Despite the enor­mous pop­u­lar­i­ty of Japan­ese art in Europe, “the ambiva­lence was mutu­al.” Many appeared to feel that “the sub­tle beau­ty of the Japan­ese art threat­ened Euro­pean claims to cul­tur­al suprema­cy” when it appeared in Vic­to­ri­an exhi­bi­tions in Lon­don and else­where.

These fears aside, the meet­ing of many cul­tures in the exchanges between Europe and Japan helped to revi­tal­ize the arts and shake off stag­nant clas­si­cal tra­di­tions while respond­ing in dynam­ic ways to rapid indus­tri­al­iza­tion. The empha­sis on folk and dec­o­ra­tive art, brought into the realm of fine art, was cul­tur­al­ly trans­for­ma­tive in Europe. In Japan, the styl­iza­tions of mod­ernist paint­ing dis­rupt­ed tra­di­tion­al scenes and tech­niques, as in the wood­block prints here and in the sev­er­al hun­dred more in var­i­ous issues of the month­ly mag­a­zine. See them all at Pub­lic Domain Review.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load Full Issues of MAVO, the Japan­ese Avant-Garde Mag­a­zine That Announced a New Mod­ernist Move­ment (1923–1925)

Down­load Vin­cent van Gogh’s Col­lec­tion of 500 Japan­ese Prints, Which Inspired Him to Cre­ate “the Art of the Future”

1,000+ His­toric Japan­ese Illus­trat­ed Books Dig­i­tized & Put Online by the Smith­son­ian: From the Edo & Meji Eras (1600–1912)

Down­load 2,500 Beau­ti­ful Wood­block Prints and Draw­ings by Japan­ese Mas­ters (1600–1915)

Adver­tise­ments from Japan’s Gold­en Age of Art Deco

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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