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

Monbushō shusai, Insatsu bunka tenrankai: Graphic Art Exposition, Organized by the Ministry of Education, Tōkyō Hakubutsukan, September 25 to October 25, 1921

This poster attests to the unique graphic design of the Taishō-period, combining German Expressionism, Art Nouveau, and modern design. The most noticeable element is a fairly simple profile of a young woman reading or viewing printed matter in front of a printing machine. The poster was made for the Insatsu Bunka Tenrankai/Graphic Art Exposition, which was held between September 25th and October 25th, 1921.

Sugiyama Sueo was not just the designer of the poster but one of the central figures in curating the exhibition that was dedicated to prints, printing technologies, and graphic arts. Organized by the Ministry of Education, the exhibition shows how the ministry was interested in implementing new technology into the Japanese education system at the time. The exhibition covered a wide range from historical printed matter to new printing technologies. It also promoted the notion of graphic design and the role of designers. Furthermore, the printing companies, including Toppan Printing Co.—the printer of this poster—were also advertised through the exhibition, which attracted more than 300 thousand visitors. (Qira Kong)

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