Modernization in Meiji Japan 1868-1912

Episode 39 :  Barry Till, a curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (Canada), gives Brooke a history lesson on the Meiji (pronounced MAY-gee) period in Japan. During this tumultuous forty-five year span the island nation was transformed from a nineteenth-century insular feudal society into a twentieth-century global industrial and military power.
The Art Gallery is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Japanese art in Canada. It is currently hosting Modernization in Meiji Japan (1868-1912) Changing Images of Architecture, Transportation and War. The exhibition features contemporaneous wood block prints which illustrate Japanese life during this period. The prints not only serve as works of accessible popular art, but also provide historical insight into those fascinating and influential times. The exhibition will continue until August 28, 2016.

the tsukiji hotel

The Tsukiji Hotel, the First Western Style Hotel Built in Tokyo, and the Paddle Steamer City of Edo, 1870 | Original Hiroshige III (1843 – 1894) | Japanese Woodblock Print – See more at:

Meiji woodblock prints are fascinating in that they reveal to us a country in total transition. During the short period of Emperor Meiji’s reign (1868-1912) of nearly 45 years, Japan made an astonishingly swift metamorphosis from a feudal state into a modern industrial nation and major military power. Meiji Japan was recognized as the great nation-building “success story” of the modern non-Western world. What had taken the Western powers centuries to accomplish, Japan achieved in a few short decades. The prints of the period clearly show how Japan enthusiastically threw itself into changing and modernizing the nation by adopting just about anything Western.  It was truly amazing how every facet of life in Japan would experience an intense social and economic upheaval.  This exhibition will focus on three main aspects of their modernization: architecture, transportation and wars. The Gallery has one of the largest and finest collections of Meiji prints in North America.

Featured Image (at top of page):  City Scene with Horse-drawn Streetcars | Original Meiji era Japanese Woodblock Print

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Dastan Gallery

Episode 35 : On this episode I talk with Hormoz Hematian of the Dastan Gallery….all the way in Iran! (He was visiting his family in Canada when we chatted.) I first read about Hormoz in an article describing some Iranian artists and curators’ efforts to bring the art scene back to its former glory.


7.MossavarNameh-GroupExhibition-Nov2015-Photoby AliZanjani

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All images used with permission.



A Window on Paraskeva Clark

Episode 31  : Today I chat with Michelle Gewurtz, curator at the Ottawa Art Gallery about  A Window on Paraskeva Clark exhibition.

oag exhibit

A Window on Paraskeva Clark, curated by Michelle Gewurtz. Installation view, Ottawa Art Gallery, 2016. Photo: David Barbour


Paraskeva Clark, Milford Bay Church, 1956, watercolour and graphite on paper, FAC1580. Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, The Ottawa Art Gallery: Donated to the City of Ottawa by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1974.


Paraskeva Clark, Working Drawing for Eaton’s Windows(detail), c. 1935, gouache, ink
and graphite on paper, FAC 1570 Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, Ottawa Art
Gallery: Donated to the City of Ottawa by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1974

public bathPhoto: David Barbour. Paraskeva Clark, Leningrad Memories–Public Bath /Souvenirs de Leningrad–Bain public, 1964. Oil on board /Huile sur panneau. Private Collection /Collection privée.

Clark revisited the public bath compositions thirty years later. It is the only instance
where she painted nudes, and her treatment of the women in this painting is reminiscent
 of work produced by European painters Suzanne Valadon and Paula Modersohn-Becker.
Clark was familiar with both of these women, having discussed their work in a lecture
she gave in St. Catharine’s in 1958 on the subject of women artists. In particular, she
praised Valadon for her still life compositions as well as her depictions of female bathers.
Like Valadon and Modersohn-Becker, who were both also regarded as unconventional
painters, Clark has outlined her figures. She has also emphasized the geometric aspects of
the bathhouse. Clark was known for including self-portraits in her work, and some have
speculated that the woman washing her feet in the right foreground is the artist herself.
Paraskeva Clark, Homage to a Soviet Film, Baltic Deputy, 1968. Oil and graphite on Masonite FAC 1252. Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, The Ottawa Art Gallery; Donated to the City of Ottawa by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1974
All images used with permission