The world thinks of Japan as having reworked itself totally after its defeat within the Second World Battle. And certainly it did, into what by the nineteen-eighties appeared like a gleaming, technology-saturated situation of ultra-modernity. However the usual model of modernity, as conceived of within the early Twentieth century with its trains, telephones, and electrical energy, got here to Japan lengthy earlier than the conflict did. “Between 1900 and 1940, Japan was reworked into a global, industrial, and concrete society,” writes Museum of Nice Arts Boston curator Anne Nishimura Morse. “Postcards — each a contemporary type of visible expression and an essential technique of promoting — reveal a lot in regards to the dramatically altering values of Japanese society on the time.”
These phrases come from the introductory textual content to the MFA’s 2004 exhibition “Artwork of the Japanese Postcard,” curated from an archive you possibly can go to on-line immediately. (The MFA has additionally revealed it in ebook type.) You may browse the classic Japanese postcards within the MFA’s digital collections in themed sections like structure, ladies, promoting, New Yr’s, Artwork Deco, and Artwork Nouveau.
These symbolize solely a tiny fraction of the postcards produced in Japan within the first many years of the 20 th century, when that new medium “rapidly changed the conventional woodblock print because the favored tableau for up to date Japanese photographs. A whole lot of tens of millions of postcards have been produced to satisfy the calls for of a public keen to accumulate photos of their quickly modernizing nation.”
The earliest Japanese postcards “have been distributed by the federal government in reference to the Russo-Japanese Battle (1904–5), to advertise the conflict effort. Nearly instantly, nevertheless, lots of Japan’s main artists — attracted by the informality and intimacy of the postcard medium — started to create beautiful designs.” The work of those artists is collected in a devoted part of the web archive, the place you’ll discover postcards by the industrial graphic-design pioneer Suguira Hisui; the French-educated, extremely Western-influenced Asai Chi; the multitalented Ota Saburo, referred to as the illustrator of Kawabata Yasunari’s The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa; and Nakazawa Hiromitsu, creator of the “diver lady” lengthy well-known amongst Japanese-art collectors.
Surprisingly, Nakazawa’s diver lady (often known as the “mermaid,” however most appropriately as “Heroine Matsuzake” of a preferred play on the time) appears to not have been among the many possessions of cosmetics billionaire and artwork collector Leonard A. Lauder, who donated greater than 20,000 Japanese picks from his huge postcard assortment to the MFA. “In 1938 or ’39, a boy of 5 or 6, or possibly seven, was so enthralled by the great thing about a postcard of the Empire State Constructing that he took his whole five-cent allowance and purchased 5 of them,” writes the New Yorker‘s Judith H. Dobrzynski. The teenager thrilling to the paper picture of a skyscraper was, after all, Lauder — who couldn’t have recognized how a lot, in that second, he had in widespread with the equally modernity-intoxicated folks on the opposite facet of the world.
by way of Flashbak
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Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embrace the Substack publication Books on Cities, the ebook The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Fb, or on Instagram.