The Rise of Photography in Late 19th-Century Japan

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_photography19thcentjapan_2012_39_09

    Unidentified artist. 'Farmers Hoeing a Field Japan,' Meiji period (1868–1911), 1890s. Photograph; albumen on paper with hand-tinting. Gift of James H. Soong, 2012 (2012-39-09).

June 09, 2016 - August 07, 2016
Honolulu Museum of Art


Exhibition Overview

The introduction of photography was a pivotal moment in the modernization of Japanese art at the end of the 19th century. In an attempt to replicate the vibrancy of polychromatic woodblock prints (nishiki-e), some of the pioneers of Japanese photography, including Felice Beato (1832–1909) and Charles Wirgman (1832–1891), both foreigners living in the port city of Yokohama, popularized the production of albumen prints, to which pigments could be later applied.

This rotation includes hand-colored albumen prints by a variety of artists active in eastern Japan during the Meiji period (1868–1911): Japanese nationals, foreign residents, and several anonymous artists. The photographs are divided into genres that underscore their similarities to Japanese woodblock prints: portraits of women (bijin-ga), landscapes and architecture (fūkei-ga), views of the Yoshiwara brothel district (a combination of the previous two genres), and images of daily life (fūzoku-ga).