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Japan in the Age of Modernization: The Arts of Ōtagaki Rengetsu and Tomioka Tessai

After Commodore Matthew Perry’s U.S. Navy ships arrived on its shores in the 1850s, Japan entered an age of rapid modernization and soon became the first Asian nation with a military and industry on par with Western imperialist countries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While grappling with the effects of rapid Western-inspired modernization, the Japanese searched for their cultural identity, increasingly turning to their past as well as to China for inspiration.

This book’s essays, by scholars from the United States, Japan, and Europe, look beyond Western industrialization to examine China’s role in forming Japan’s modern identity. The volume follows a retrospective of the Japanese nun, calligrapher, potter, and political activist Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875) and the modern Japanese painter Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924) on view in late 2022 at the Freer Gallery of Art of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C.

Publication Date: May 15, 2023

Availability: Paperback, Electronically