’s Yumeji Modern: Designing the Everyday in Twentieth-Century Japan
(University of Washington Press, 2020) is the first book-length English-language study of one of Japan’s iconic twentieth-century artists, Takehisa Yumeji (1884–1934).
While he is most famous for portraits of beautiful women and stylish graphic design―which remain enormously popular and ubiquitous in today’s Japan―Yumeji’s output was not only prolific but also diverse. He began as an illustrator for socialist magazines, was a key figure in the revival and reinvention of the woodblock print as a modern medium, and produced astute and evocative portrayals of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that devastated the Tokyo area. He was also a mentor to young artists and writers, and as Naoi shows, Yumeji created not just a recognizable style and brand, but also an alternative space of artistic production in the early twentieth century. Naoi situates Yumeji’s career within the evolving social, artistic, and technological contexts of his time, drawing our attention to his involvement with new reprographic technologies and commercial design. Additionally, by the inclusion of a substantial body of primary sources―including his 21-part earthquake reportage―in both the original and English translation, Naoi’s book is both an outstanding and accessible art history book, but a resource for future research.
And because podcasts are not the ideal visual medium, check out the links below to see some of Yumeji’s artwork and learn more.
Nozomi Naoi on “Yumeji Modern” and finding the “moon-viewing” moment
Envisioning East Asian Art History, Highlights of Yumeji Modern