From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, C. 1850–1914

Japanese Art

How did Japanese art change during the Meiji Period?

The Meiji Period lasted from 1868 to 1912, and during this time oil painting became popular in Japan after Japanese artists were exposed to Western styles of art. Subjects popular during the Edo Period, such as courtesans, were still popular during the Meiji Period. For example, in 1872, Takahashi Yuichi painted Oiran (Grand Courtesan), a Western-style portrait painted in oil, but that incorporates patterns and colors used in ukiyo-e paintings. In this painting, Takahashi Yuichi (1828–1894) depicts the elegant sitter’s brightly colored garments as disparate, abstract sections of color and texture, a technique derived from traditional Japanese painting. Western styles were so popular during the Meiji Period that some artists were concerned that Japan would lose its own distinctive style. Traditional artists such as Yokoyama Taikan (1853–1908) wanted to breathe life into Japanese styles of painting by infusing them with some Western techniques, but to emphasize their Japanese character in a style known as nihonga.


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