Artisans, Beauties, and Annual Events

Toyohara Kunichika Japanese

Not on view

This album preserves a cornucopia of images of traditional Japanese culture at the beginning of the Meiji period, a time when the island country was opening up to modernization effected by engagement with the West. Each of the thirty leaves captures a scene of bygone Japan. About a third of the images captures people—mostly women—of all walks of life enjoying outdoor excursions, activities of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters, or annual festivities across the four seasons.

Yet, central to the set, and in many ways the most interesting and instructive images, are the depictions of women and men busy at occupations that once defined Japan before modernization encroached: carving religious sculptures in stone and wood; constructing homes and temples according to traditional methods; dyeing and embroidering textiles; mounting paintings with silk borders.

Artisans, Beauties, and Annual Events, Toyohara Kunichika (Japanese, 1835–1900), Thirty paintings mounted as an accordion album; ink, color, gold and gold flecks on silk, Japan

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Leaf 1