Unpinning History : Japanese Posters in the Age of Commercialism, Imperialism, and Modernism

Minami Manshū Tetsudō Kaisha South Manchuria Railway Co. [Rainbows]

Mayama Kōji’s poster creates an idyllic image for the viewer, but illustrates the expansion of the South Manchuria Railway Co. which is emphasized through the map in the bottom portion of the poster. Mayama was trained in yōga, or Western painting technique, at the Hakuba-kai (White Horse Society) where multiple artists represented in USC Libraries' poster collection trained. Here, Mayama depicts a man herding his sheep, half in the darkness and half in the light, with a double rainbow protruding from dark clouds and rain in the background, and a patch of sunlit land in the foreground. The thick and heavy brushstrokes of the clouds and rain reflect the temperament of Japan at the time of this poster’s production. Completed in 1925, the poster presents an optimistic story for Japanese viewers following the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. The natural disaster and economic despair of old Japan is like a passing storm in the background, while the light and hope of future prosperity is in the foreground. The duality of Japan’s past and future is further echoed by the duality of the two rainbows protruding in the background. (Amanda Douglas)

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