Japan Envisions the West
16th-19th Century Japanese Art from Kobe City Museum
Maps bear important witness in telling the story of how each region recognized and understood the lands of the other. Selected maps mark milestones in illustrating each state of understanding between Japan and the West.
Portuguese and Spanish missionaries and merchants from the late sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries conveyed Western culture, religion, art, food, and music to the Japanese, and they were the first Westerners to have a strong impact in Japan. Namban refers to Japanese art created under the influence of Portugal and Spain.
After Christianity was excluded from Japan in the 1630s, Nagasaki became the only port open for trading with Dutch merchants. Artists in this region, especially painters serving the government, had the opportunity to see foreign people, culture, and art firsthand. They made visual records, copied important objects, and studied these records for their work.
When the Tokugawa Shogunate Yoshimune relaxed restrictions on imported Western books in 1720, with the exception of Christian books, scholarly artists and scientists were free to study them, leading to Komo, Japanese art created under the influence of Holland, and to more popular paintings, prints, and decorative arts that demonstrate the fusion of Japanese and Western styles. At the same time, objects were made specifically for trade with Europe through the East India Companies established in European countries.
Finally, visual images produced in the nineteenth century show the effort, surprise, and curiosity of the Japanese as they tried to understand America and Americans.
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"This is a brilliant study of Western influences on the arts and culture of Japan during the Edo period, going far beyond the standard analyses of formal elements such as perspective and three dimensions. . . . This is a crucial purchase for college and university libraries, since it will change considerably readers' understanding of this important period of East/West relations. Essential."—Choice
"Features a splendid variety of exquisite Japanese works of art from the Kobe City museum, proving a rare insight into interactions between Japan and the West for three centuries."—Umbrella
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