Taisho Chic: Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia, and Deco

April 22 – June 20, 2004

As western "Jazz Age" mores and styles jostled with traditional Japanese values of tranquility and harmony, the reign of Emperor Taisho (1912–1926) was an era of transition in Japan when the vastly different cultures of the native past and the seemingly foreign future emerged in stark contrast.

Japanese designers of all kinds faced a choice between adapting old forms and motifs now reified as tradition, or embracing the new Western techniques and patterns identified with progress. Artists depicted these cultural oppositions in traditional panel paintings on silk and folding screens displaying Japanese landscapes, birds, and flowers—motifs also adopted by western designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright.

Over sixty scroll paintings, folding screens, woodblock prints, textiles, and other decorative art pieces represented the broad spectrum of Taisho culture with particular reference to objects associated with women, whose fashions, behavior, and household roles exemplify the simultaneous clash and embrace of modernity and tradition in Japan in the 1920s and 30s.