Japan art and Yoshifuji (1828-1887)

Japan art and Yoshifuji (1828–1887)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Yoshifuji (1828-1887) witnessed the ending of the Edo Period and the expansionist era of the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912). Hence, the increasing encroachment of foreign ideas and new wars were on the horizon. Therefore, the gradual interactions between different ethnic groups that took place were recorded in a simple style by Yoshifuji.

In the art piece below, Yoshifuji depicts an American family in the port city of Yokohama. His art shows a family at peace and enjoying happy moments together. The children are focused on their mother – while the father watches on cheerfully.

The Met Museum says, “This print was created in Yokohama, a port city where foreign ships would become more common after the 1868 Meiji Restoration, which marked the collapse of the military government of the shoguns and the opening to the West. Artists such as Yoshifuji captured the exotic clothing and what, to the Japanese, seemed like the peculiar facial features of Westerners. The mother’s over-the-top bonnet and elaborate earrings seem to be concoctions based on European images.”

Naturally, curiosity happens when the interaction between different ethnic or religious groups is minimal. Hence, in this period of history, Japan was gradually opening up concerning the external convulsions of Western encroachment and internal forces that enabled the Meiji Period.

In the image above, a young person is collecting shellfish. However, despite searching on the sand and with small flows of water – and not ideal conditions – the dress style highlights a person of deep care.

Yoshifuji also depicted many historical scenes that went back many centuries.


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