By the end of the nineteenth century, Europeans and North Americans became very interested in Japanese art, and the Japanese works that began to flood Western markets heavily influenced artists. In turn, while Japanese artists continued to draw much inspiration from Eastern sources, they were equally interested in adapting Western styles into their designs. The Meiji government, recognizing the advantages of this cross-pollination of cultures, encouraged Japanese artists to expose themselves to Western ideals. Many Japanese artists were sent abroad to study, while Western artists were invited to work in Japan. A typical vase of Meiji period production combines stylistic influences of both East and West. The iris, symbolizing success because of the sword-like shape of the leaf became a very popular decorative motif in Japanese arts and crafts during the Meiji period.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Europeans and North Americans became very interested in Japanese art, and the Japanese works that began to flood Western markets heavily influenced artists. In turn, while Japanese artists continued to draw much inspiration from Eastern sources, they were equally interested in adapting Western styles into their designs. The Meiji government, recognizing the advantages of this cross-pollination of cultures, encouraged Japanese artists to expose themselves to Western ideals. Many Japanese artists were sent abroad to study, while Western artists were invited to work in Japan. A typical vase of Meiji period production combines stylistic influences of both East and West. The iris, symbolizing success because of the sword-like shape of the leaf became a very popular decorative motif in Japanese arts and crafts during the Meiji period.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

This vase incorporates elements of Western and traditional Japanese styles

Probably Miyakawa Kozan
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Miss Adaline Van Horne
c. 1880
Porcelain, underglaze blue and red painted decoration
36.3 x 20.2 x 13 cm
1944.Dp. 91
© The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts


An example of a typical object vase produced for the export market is a porcelain vase heavily decorated in red, grey, and gold over-enamel colours. While a Western collector might consider Japanese figures depicted in a cartouche surrounded by busy designs typical of Japanese ceramics, such vases far more closely resembles late nineteenth-century interpretations of Japanese ceramics made by European potters. Japanese potters were quick to capitalize on the European taste for busy, overly decorated porcelains with recognizable Japanese motifs.
An example of a typical object vase produced for the export market is a porcelain vase heavily decorated in red, grey, and gold over-enamel colours. While a Western collector might consider Japanese figures depicted in a cartouche surrounded by busy designs typical of Japanese ceramics, such vases far more closely resembles late nineteenth-century interpretations of Japanese ceramics made by European potters. Japanese potters were quick to capitalize on the European taste for busy, overly decorated porcelains with recognizable Japanese motifs.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

This ornate vase was made for the export market

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Dr. William H. Pugsley

Porcelain painted overglaze in polychrome enamels and gold
61.30 cm
1981.Ee.1 a-b
© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


International fairs like the Paris Exposition of 1867, the Philadelphia 1876 Exhibition, and the Chicago World Fair of 1893 played an important role in promoting Meiji-period ceramics, bringing them to an international audience and certain potters, like the maker of this vase became very popular with Western clients. While the shape of the vase is typical of the base of an oriental ginger jar, the rich, polychrome decoration of realistically represented flowers is more typical of the European style.
International fairs like the Paris Exposition of 1867, the Philadelphia 1876 Exhibition, and the Chicago World Fair of 1893 played an important role in promoting Meiji-period ceramics, bringing them to an international audience and certain potters, like the maker of this vase became very popular with Western clients. While the shape of the vase is typical of the base of an oriental ginger jar, the rich, polychrome decoration of realistically represented flowers is more typical of the European style.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Vase with design of flowers and butterflies.

Mark of Kinkozan
Private collection

Earthenware with enamels and gilt
h.: 45.8 cm
© Private collection


Dove on roof tile, a symbol of the Yawata-Hachimon shrine

Mark of Makuzu Kozan
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Fred and Isabel Pollard Collection

Porcelain with enamels
l.: 21.5 cm
71.40
© Art Gallery of Greater Victoria


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe traditional ceramics
  • Describe the Western influences present during the Meiji period on ceramics
  • Explain how the Meiji government influenced ceramic decorative arts
  • Appreciate that cultural shifts in style are often an amalgamation of styles rather than a replacement of styles
  • Appreciate the aesthetic qualities of Japanese artistry
  • Recognize, in words and pictures, elements of Japanese decorative arts
  • Relate Japanese ceramic decorative arts to that of their own culture

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