Artistic responses to the impact of Japanese modernisation on new technologies, travel opportunities and tastes in the late nineteenth century

10 December 2021, 12:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Ms Mei Sheong Wong, Art Gallery of South Australia
Dr Jennifer Harris, University of Adelaide

Session Moderators

Dr Jennifer Harris, University of Adelaide

Session Speakers

Ms Mei Sheong Wong, Art Gallery of South Australia
Ms Kathryn Needs, Art Gallery of South Australia
Dr Jennifer Harris, University of Adelaide

After 250 years of enforced isolation, Japan's 'opening' in the Bakumatsu era (1853-68) was the catalyst for rapid modernisation. Foreigners could enter the declared ‘treaty ports’, and Japanese could travel abroad. This panel explores the transformative two-way impact of travel and technology, in adapting and developing new tastes and genres of artistic production. Photography, introduced by Western photographers such as Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Ratenicz and AdolphoFarsari, provided a new field of endeavour for early Japanese photographers, including Tamamura Kozaburo, Kusakabe Kimbei and Ogawa Kazumasa. Documenting the transformation of Meiji era (1868-1912) Japan, these early photographers also created a nostalgia, in the West, for ‘old Japan’. It could be argued that photographed images of kimono- clad Japanese women inspired Western fashions, as couturiers like Charles Frederick-Worth and Paul Poiret incorporated Japanese aesthetic in their designs. Travel beyond Japan’s shores exposed Japanese artists to the arts and crafts of other cultures, and therefore, had profound impact on their own practices. While most travelled to Europe/America, Japanese carver Jonaski Takuma (born 1868) came to Australia, where he adapted traditional training and skills, to the vastly different artistic and commercial milieu of carving emu eggs.

PAPER #1
Early Photography's Impact in Japan's Transformation, Bakumatsu and Meiji eras

PRESENTER
Ms Mei Sheong Wong, Art Gallery of South Australia

"My paper discusses Early Photography's impact in Japan's transformation. Eastern effects of Daguerre’s 1839 experiments included: daguerreotypists aboard HMS Queen, Nanking (1842); West’s photographic studio, Hong Kong (1845); and a daguerreotype camera, imported by Ueno Shunnojo (1848) via Deshima's Dutch traders, sold to Satsuma daimyo Shimazu Nariakira (1849). Harvey R. Marks’ daguerreotypes of Japanese Eiriki-Maru castaways (1851-52) include Sentaro ‘Sam Patch’: interpreter for Commodore Perry’s Japan expedition, via Macau and Tumai, Lew Chew/Okinawa (1852-54). Eliphalet M. Brown Jr (official artist, lithographer, daguerreotypist) took the earliest surviving photographs in Japan, as Perry’s warships arrived (1853). Early Photography was integral to documenting Japan’s Bakumatsu-era turbulence (1853-68). Multi-national incursions severely disrupted Japan’s socio-economic order. After 260 years of Tokugawa reign, Edo was forced open (1858). Photographer Felix Beato arrived in 1863, supported by military/diplomatic connections. The ‘new’ Japan’s capital became Edo/Tokyo, after Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s resignation (1867) and teenage Meiji emperor’s ‘restoration’ (1868). Humiliated national pride/resentment of ‘unequal’ treaties underpinned frantic Meiji-era modernisation (1868-1912) - documented by Western photographers, including Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Ratenicz and Adolpho Farsari; and Early Japanese Photographers, such as Tamamura Kozaburo, Kusakabe Kimbei and Ogawa Kazumasa. Their images, evoking Western-inspired nostalgia for ‘old’ Japan’s traditions/aesthetics, profoundly influenced Japanese cultural identity."

PAPER #2
Beautiful Others: how Japan and the West accepted, developed, and discovered new beauty in each other’s fashions and lifestyles.

PRESENTER
Ms Kathryn Needs, Art Gallery of South Australia

East/West cultural exchanges influenced Western fashion designers in adapting and capitalising on Japanese inspired designs, as part of Japonisme during the late 19th century and early 20th century. After Yokohama Port opened in 1859, East/West cultural exchanges influenced people’s lives and aesthetics. Japanese art was quickly accepted and enjoyed in Europe/America. The kimono signified an artistic, fashionable, exotic and non-conformist lifestyle. Western dress in Japan supposedly signified modern civilisation and enlightenment. Initially worn by the Empress of Japan, Western dress aligned with the government’s pledge to seek representation as a contemporary, militarily powerful nation. Wearing items of European apparel indicated commitment to this cause. Japonisme influenced significant fashion designers like Charles Frederick-Worth, Jacques Doucet and Paul Poiret, who incorporated, adapted and applied Japanese aesthetic in their designs. By the 1890s, silk production in Lyon (France) incorporated Japanese motifs and patterns. Madeleine Vionnet integrated flat kimono structure into western fashion (1920s). The freedom of movement created by the kimono's simple form appealed to designers and women, who were breaking away from the socioculturally restrictive corset and bustle of the past. Ultimately, the flat construction and silhouette of the kimono exerted a profound influence on Western clothing and the world of fashion.

PAPER #3
Emu eggs: art, adaptation and exoticism

PRESENTER
Dr Jennifer Harris, University of Adelaide

In the late nineteenth century, Australian decorative artists, especially silversmiths, reflected the aspirations of impending federation by incorporating the highly emblematic medium of emu eggs into their works. The eggs were mounted within silver or electroplated frameworks, embellished with patriotic symbols like ferns, emus, koalas and Aboriginal figures. The Art Gallery of South Australia holds numerous examples of mounted emu eggs; but three in particular stand out from the norm. One was carved by the little-documented Japanese artisan, Jonoski Takuma, who, having arrived in Sydney in 1888, set up in business, cameo-carving emu eggs. He depicted Australian bush scenes, with iconic fauna like lyre birds, Sydney harbour and Bushmen around the campfire. In adapting to his new Australian environment, he turned his back on Japanese traditions. In contrast, however, the other two emu eggs in the collection mirror the dynamism of change and artistic hybridity in Japan, as their creators explored the emu egg as an exotic medium for traditional Japanese art techniques. By focusing on these enigmatic and obscure works, this paper explores the two-way impact on tastes and genres of artistic production that manifested between Japan and Australia at that time.

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Biographies

Ms Mei Sheong Wong, Art Gallery of South Australia

Mei studied Fine Art at l'Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts de Paris, France; Adelaide College of Arts (BVA, Printmaking, 2010); and Adelaide Central School of Art (Honours, 2014). She obtained the Graduate Diploma in Art History (2018) and MA Curatorial & Museum Studies (2020) at the Art Gallery of SA and the University of Adelaide. As Curatorial Research Assistant (Asian Art) at the Art Gallery of SA, she is currently researching Early Japanese Photography. Mei is a practising artist-printmaker; founding committee member of Bittondi Printmakers Association Inc.; and SA representative for the Print Council of Australia.


Dr Jennifer Harris, University of Adelaide 

Dr Jennifer Harris’ doctorate in art history examined the formation of the Japanese art collection at the Art Gallery of South Australia within national/international contexts. She was formerly a teacher of Japanese language, and lecturer/tutor in Japanese art history at University of Adelaide, where she is a visiting research fellow. She is author/curator of 'Netsuke and Other Miniatures from the Japanese Collection' (2014) and 'The Power of Pattern: the Ayako Mitsui Collection' (2015) at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Most recently, she was co-editor/contributor to the publication 'Exporting Japanese Aesthetics: Evolution from Tradition to Cool Japan' (Sussex Academic, 2020).


Ms Kathryn Needs, Art Gallery of South Australia

Kathryn Needs recently completed the MA Curatorial & Museum Studies course, Art Gallery of SA and University of Adelaide. Her Master’s thesis discussed the curation of dress and fashion and its relationship to a gallery’s broader collection. Her Honours degree was in Fine Arts at Flinders University. While studying and working in the University gallery/collection, she curated an exhibition on SA pictorial photography. She was formerly a Guide at Art Gallery of SA. As Curatorial Research Assistant at Art Gallery of SA (Decorative Arts), she is developing skills in cataloguing and research. Currently, she is researching SA colonial women’s fashion.