Fit to Print II: Constructing Japanese Modernity in Action and Body

YŌSHŪ Chikanobu (1838-1912). Japanese; Meiji period, 1891. Woman’s Public Speech, from the series Competition of Magic Lanterns Projecting the Heart. Woodblock print in vertical ōban format; ink and color on paper, 14 3/8 x 9 ½ in. Loan from the Lee & Mary Jean Michels Collection

KOBAYASHI Kiyochika (1847-1915). Japanese; Meiji period, 1895. Illustration of a Visit by the Empress to the General Staff Headquarters. Woodblock-printed vertical ōban triptych; ink and color on paper, 14 5/8 x 28 ½ in. Gift of Irwin Lavenberg, The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints

Fit to Print II: Constructing Japanese Modernity in Action and Body

August 20, 2022 to August 06, 2023

This exhibition is the result of a Winter 2022 art history course taught by Professor Akiko Walley and Chief Curator Anne Rose Kitagawa that examined the transitional history of late 19th- and early 20th-century Japanese woodblock prints. The undergraduate and graduate students who took the course learned about prints of the Edo (1615-1868), Meiji (1868-1912), and Taishō (1912-1926) periods from the Irwin Lavenberg and Lee & Mary Jean Michels collections, including works formerly loaned for our first Fit to Print exhibition and subsequently donated by the collectors. The course focused on the expressive and technical changes brought about by the introduction of Western print and photographic mediums and Japan’s mobilization of art for education, entertainment, and propaganda during the Meiji period. Students also learned about exhibition planning and design in order to collaborate on this installation and contribute original didactic materials addressing the historical context, content, and style of prints exploring themes of modernity, gender, war, and colonialism.

This is the first JSMA exhibition celebrating the extremely generous donations of 520+ Meiji prints from the Lavenberg Collection and the first group of over 150 Japanese prints from the Michels Collection. Together, these magnanimous gifts have transformed the JSMA into a major resource for the study of Meiji graphic arts. The exhibition also includes a selection of materials related to the Ainu (indigenous people of northern Japan) organized by Mac Coyle, Post-Graduate Curatorial Fellow in Asian Art.