Over the Blue Horizon

Taisho Chic

Taisho Chic is an absolutely stunning hardcover book printed by the Honolulu Academy of Arts of Hawaii in 2001 to accompany an exhibit held from January to March 2002.  The Taisho era was a brief but dynamic period in Japan's modern development that is often described as a Japanese version of the Roaring Twenties.

Officially lasting from 1912 to 1926 ( the reign of the Emperor Taisho), the phrase “Taisho culture” more accurately evokes a society in transition in the twenties and early thirties when Western Jazz Age mores and styles bumped up against traditional Japanese values of harmony and tranquility. During this period, as Japan was becoming an international power, the gap between a traditional agriculturally-based population and the modern industrial sector widened.   The exhibit (and this book) was based on sixty scroll paintings, folding screens, woodblock prints, kimono, and other works of decorative art that illuminate the broad spectrum of Taisho culture.

Guest curated by Kendall H. Brown, Taisho Chic has a special focus on art and objects associated with women whose fashions, behavior, and changing roles exemplify the simultaneous clash and embrace of modernity and tradition in Japan in the twenties and thirties. The modern girl (modan gaaru, or moga for short) was the subject of much of the art of the period. These young women, the Japanese equivalent of flappers, were office workers, shop girls, or waitresses and therefore had a measure of economic independence from their families. Cafes, dance halls, and nightclubs were public spaces most associated with moga and modern life. Tokyo was still being rebuilt following the devastating earthquake of 1923, and many young sophisticates flocked to Shanghai for its cosmopolitan nightlife.  Long overlooked by scholars, the Taisho era is now seen as a significant artistic period as well as cultural phenomenon, largely thanks to the connoisseurship of the art dealer Patricia Salmon, from whom the bulk of the collection on view was purchased by the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1987. 

Accompanying the high-quality illustrations in this catalogue/book are some historical and sociological essays by scholars of Japanese art and politics including an introductory essay by historian Sharon Minichiello which provides a broad context for these issues by sketching major domestic and international events and themes of the period. In his essay and catalogue entries, art historian Kendall H. Brown first examines how women were at the center of the socio-cultural debate on Japanese modernity, then details how artists helped fashion various female types, including the modern girl, the traditional beauty, and a new type of hybrid woman. An exceptional work, this very attractive catalogue/book will prove valuable to readers interested in both Japanese art and history.

Condition of this 176-page, 10 by 10-inch HARDCOVER is BRAND NEW.