Japanese art and design in Meiji Period: Tsuda Seifu

Japanese art and design in Meiji Period: Tsuda Seifu

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist and designer – and blessed with other notable skills – Tsuda Seifu (1880-1978) produced many delightful works during the Meiji Period (1868-1912). During the Taisho Period (1912-1926), Tsuda did notable bookbinding for the esteemed Natsume Soseki. 

In this article, all the works by Tsuda are from the Meiji Period. Thus one can imagine how Tsuda viewed this period of Japanese history that witnessed countless convulsions. Some were positive – others were negative. However, from an international point of view, Meiji Japan was following the whims of other colonial powers (the British, French, Ottomans, and others).

In a sense, the images in this art piece highlight a more dynamic Tsuda who was freer from the political convulsions of the Taisho Period and early Showa Period when communism, socialism, nationalism, militarism, and other ideas were competing from militancy. 

The Shoto Museum of Art says, “In general, the designs were drawn mainly as draft sketches for crafts. However, the period from 1897 to 1906, known as the “Meiji 30’s” era, was a time when attempts were made to turn designs into art as a way to break away from traditional design. Later, during the Taisho Era (1912–26), designs began to be produced in a freer form, unrestricted by conventional forms.”

It is known that his family felt the changing dynamics of the Meiji Period negatively. Thus, their family-run business concerning a school that taught ikebana flower arrangements needed to restructure. Therefore, with his later links to proletarian art, one can gather hints of how this period impacted his future political thought patterns that gathered momentum during the Taisho and early Showa period. 

In Tsuda’s early designs, it is abundantly clear that he admired the work of Kamisaka Sekka. Hence, the designs in this article equally draw people to the art of Sekka – the last great rinpa (rimpa) artist. 

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