Thursday, November 5, 2009

Inspiration: Showa Sophistication

Yesterday Dan and I had the day off together and we decided to spend it at the Museum of Fine Arts. We'd been wanting to see a new special exhibit called "The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC" so we took advantage of the good weather and drove to Boston for the day. I have to say that although the Egyptian rooms were interesting, my imagination was captured by another, smaller collection in the Asian wing called "Showa Sophistication: Japan in the 1930s."

Here's part of the description on the website:

"The Museum recently acquired seventeen Japanese paintings largely produced and exhibited in Tokyo in the 1930s—the early Shōwa era—an overlooked period in the history of the arts in Japan. In many cases the subject matter, as well as the size, gave these paintings a commanding presence: large, elegant images of skiers, of stylish tea-house attendants in an art deco tea room, of young women in the latest Parisian fashion standing on the prow of a sailboat, and of a traditional Japanese woman standing in front of a decorated Christmas tree. Painted for Japanese audiences, and exhibited at the leading Tokyo annual exhibitions, these paintings expressed a worldview held by large numbers of Japanese during the 1930s. They saw themselves as sophisticated citizens of the world."

Photo and Text Credit

I wish more of the images were included on the website. This picture was not my favorite and its diminutive size on the website doesn't do justice to the actual paintings themselves, which are quite large. Out of the handful that were on display, I found two very appealing. The first was of two young women dressed in pale 30's fashions sailing and the other depicted two girls laying in a field of clovers. I couldn't help but covet their clothing and hairstyles, right down to the shoes. In addition to the style, I was also captivated by techniques the artists employed. The people themselves look almost like cartoon figures with one dimensional features, but the many other objects around them were painted in rich colors with repetitive patterns, which when layered over one another, created a feeling of texture. I'm not sure if any of this makes sense, but I found it so very inspiring, both from a fashion point of view and from an artistic one. Unfortunately, the show ends on November 8th, so I won't be able to visit again, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to view it at least once.


  1. sounds GREAT! Lately, I'm really interested in the Japanese and Egyptian influences on 1920s Western flapper fashion. This piques my interest, too. Thanks!

  2. Art deco, Parisian fashion and christmas trees would never connect the dots with Japanese history in my head, I'm really surprised to read about this... I almost can't believe it happened back in the 30s!

    This is making me curious, so very cool to know a wee bit about it.

  3. I am always interested in ancient finds and artifacts... this exhibit sounds great. Glad you were able to see it.

  4. That sounds so interesting, I would have loved that. Thanks for explaining it and the picture.

  5. Sounds like an amazing visit! You make me want to visit a museum... :^)

  6. I am such a fan of museums, too - I think that I would greatly enjoy working at one, especially if it featured historical displays of costumes or pieces from the mid-20th century :)

    Joyful wishes to you for the coming week and endless thanks for each and every one of your marvelous comments.

    ♥ Jessica


I'd love to hear your thoughts!