As urbanization and industrialization dramatically transformed the land and people of Japan in the early 20th century, Japanese artists often portrayed nostalgic, idealized images of the natural world and traditional rural life. The quiet serenity of these works from the 1920s and 30s often obscures the sense of disquiet present during this turbulent era. These works embody a wish to escape to an earlier, simpler time more in harmony with nature and tradition.
This exhibition includes Japanese paintings and prints that are traditional in subject matter but modern in style. These images of landscapes, birds and flowers, and scenes of rural life balance tradition and modernity, realism and idealism, reflecting the contradictions and tensions of a rapidly changing nation.
This exhibition is supported, in part, by a Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) implementation grant to Oberlin College from the Henry Luce Foundation. Organized by Kevin R. E. Greenwood, Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art, with assistance from Leina Fieleke ’21, Elka Lee-Shapiro ’18, and Ramzy Lakos ’18. Special thanks to Douglas and Elaine Barr.