Meiji period (1868-1912) prints reflect an era of change. In 1853, the arrival of Commodore Perry’s “Black Ships” brought over 250 years of Japanese isolation to an abrupt end. The following year, as Japan engaged in international trade, Yokohama-e (Yokohama pictures), captured the influx of unfamiliar peoples, places and things entering Japan through Yokohama harbor. By 1868, the Meiji emperor attained control of the country, terminating the feudal rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate and dissipating the culture of the floating world. Under the emperor, modernization progressed rapidly. From Western-style clothes and pastimes, to exciting new inventions from overseas, Japan absorbed the massive influx of the foreign and developed a distinctly Japanese modern identity. While photography and lithography gained popularity at this time, the woodblock print continued to serve as a powerful medium. Meiji artists made sense of a transitioning world with a familiar medium. The work of artists such as Yoshitoshi, Kiyochika, and Chikanobu reveal the incredible creativity that rose from this tumult of transition.

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