New Saburosuke Okada Exhibition Explores the Origins of “Japan’s Modern Beauty”
Saburosuke Okada, Woman Wearing a Diamond Ring, 1908, Taro Fukutomi Collection
Every age has its own standards of beauty. For Japan in particular, the period from the influx of Western culture in the late 1800s to the early Showa period before World War II was a turning point for female aesthetics in which women’s fashion and hairstyles changed dramatically.
One of the key figures in this change was Western-style painter Saburosuke Okada, and the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone is marking the 150th anniversary of his birth with an exhibition entitled “Japan’s Modern Beauty: Okada Saburosuke and His Contemporaries in the Era of Japanese Modern Style,” running from December 8, 2018, to March 17, 2019. The exhibition traces the influence of Okada and his contemporaries on ideas of female beauty in modern Japan.
The Western-style painters active in Japan during this period were at the forefront of trends, playing a similar role to the creative directors of today. Okada in particular revealed countless new images of female beauty in his works, even becoming involved in Japan’s first female portrait photography contest.
Saburosuke Okada, Kimono with Iris Pattern, 1927, Pola Museum of Art
Takeji Fujishima, Profile of a Woman, 1926-1927, Pola Museum of Art
The exhibition includes not only 15 of Okada’s most acclaimed works, it also introduces works by other painters like Fujishima Takeji and Kiyokata Kaburaki alongside contemporary posters, make-up sets, and more—200 works in total. There are even six kimonos that Okada, an avid collector of fine garments, had his models wear for paintings.
Arranged sequentially along the twisting path from the Meiji Restoration of 1868 to the early Showa, these works show how new ideas of female beauty were formed and female aesthetics evolved over that period.
With the end of the Heisei period (which began in 1989) not far away, “Japan’s Modern Beauty” is a timely opportunity to look back on the development of beauty standards in contemporary Japan.
◆ Japan’s Modern Beauty: Okada Saburosuke and His Contemporaries in the Era of Japanese Modern Style
Exhibition period: December 8, 2018 to March 17, 2019 (closed January 30 to update exhibits)
Venue: Pola Museum of Art
1285 Kozukayama, Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa, Japan
Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (last entry 4:30 p.m.)
Official website: http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/exhibition/japans-modern-beauty/