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

Osaka Shosen Kaisha = Osaka Mercantile Steamship Co., Ltd. [Dōjōji]

“Woman in Red Kimono” is a nihonga (Japanese) style poster, which is characterized by its flawless and timeless depictions of women. The woman in this poster dons an ornate costume for dōjōji dance, which originated in Noh theater, the oldest style of theatrical performance in Japan. While traditional iconography takes the foreground, the background is reminiscent of Western surrealism, especially the way in which cherry blossoms flow in the frame against the striped curtain, which also reflects the company’s logo, to demarcate a makeshift stage. Simultaneously, this focus on color and stylization could suggest artists’/designers’ growing consciousness to compete with photography that grew in popularity in the Meiji (1868–1912) and Taishō (1912–1926) periods. Artists began playing with abstraction and/or color schemes in order to make their works unique, especially since cameras could capture details more precisely than artists could. The poster’s combination of foreign and domestic narratives—combining English writing and a Gregorian calendar with Japanese symbolism—shows a cultural shift towards Japan’s expansion. (Alexia Nutting and Samantha Scheinfeld)

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