Modern Japanese Art and the Meiji State: The Politics of Beauty
This broad-ranging and profoundly influential analysis describes how Western art institutions and vocabulary were transplanted to Japan in the late nineteenth century. In the 1870s and 1880s, artists, government administrators, and others in Japan encountered the Western “system of the arts” for the first time, as objects and information from Japan reached European and American audiences following the collapse of the shogun’s regime. Under pressure to exhibit and sell its artistic products abroad, Japan’s new Meiji government came face-to-face with the need to create European-style art schools, museums, government-sponsored exhibitions, and artifact preservation policies—and even to establish Japanese words for “art,” “painting,” “artist,” and “sculpture.”
Modern Japanese Art and the Meiji State represents nothing less than a reconceptualization of the field of Japanese art history. It exposes the politics through which the words, categories, and values that still structure our understanding of the field came to be while revealing the historicity of Western and non-Western art history.
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