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19th-Century Artist Captures Japan in Transition

Chikanobu woodblock prints on display at BU gallery

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During the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Japan underwent a rapid transformation: the Meiji period, or Period of Enlightened Rule, saw the emperor restored to power and a massive influx of western culture and ideals. Yoshu Chikanobu, a popular woodblock print designer of the era, whose work is currently on display at the Boston University Art Gallery at the Stone Gallery, played a significant role both in promoting his country’s modernization and later in restoring pride in traditional Japanese values.

Born into a samurai family in 1838, Chikanobu became famous for creating brocade prints that incorporated rich colors and extraordinary detail. The exhibition at BU, Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints, is the first in-depth study of his work and features 50 prints spanning his 30-year career.

“The artists of the late 19th century have not really been studied much, but Chikanobu has been particularly difficult to research because there are almost no archives or evidence from his lifetime,” says exhibition organizer Bruce Coats, a professor of art history at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. “This exhibition gives you the chance to see the changes in both what he does and what is happening in Japanese society at the time.”

Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints runs through January 12, 2008, at the Boston University Art Gallery at the Stone Gallery, 855 Commonwealth Ave. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. The gallery is closed December 22 through January 1.The exhibition and gallery events are free and open to the public. For more information, click here.

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.


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