What is a Painting?

“What is a Painting?: The Art of Two Meiji Eras”
Chelsea Foxwell (University of Chicago)

As far as art was concerned, the Meiji era was actually two eras. Viewers in the early Meiji (1870s and 1880s) defined painting differently than they did in the late Meiji period(1890s to 1911). Competition and cultural differences between Kyoto and Tokyo provoked another dichotomy within the category of Meiji art. Meiji painting was further divided between so-called “new” and “old” schools, a distinction that transcended stylistic difference and stemmed from more profound questions about what a painting is and what functions it should perform. After a consideration of each of these dichotomies, this presentation will discuss mid to late Meiji-era debates about subject matter and conclude by inviting comparison with other fields, such as literature and cultural history. Does it make more sense to speak of one Meiji or two? Or could it be that duality and plurality are themselves crucial to our discussion of Meiji?

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