Two Foreign Advisors Hired by the Japanese Government
Between 1875 and the following year, two Italians, who were to leave a large imprint on the history of modern Japanese printing, arrived in Japan in quick succession. Edoardo Chiossone and Antonio Fontanesi were chosen by the newly formed Meiji government because of their background in the arts, and expectations were high that these foreign advisors would make positive contributions as Japan entered the modern age.
Although Chiossone and Fontanesi each had his own specialty, they met the needs of the Meiji government, and together they conveyed traditional European techniques to the Japanese, and taught printing techniques, namely woodblock printing, as an art form. Chiossone chiefly provided guidance for such enterprises of national importance as the making of paper currency and stamps at the Paper Money Office (later renamed the Ministry of Finance Printing Bureau), while Fontanesi devoted himself to teaching the basics of oil painting and lithography at the Imperial College of Engineering. Japanese people in the Meiji era were surprisingly diligent in studying these modern techniques, and the level of molding and printing techniques rose accordingly.
Tracing the steps of these two great men, we have attempted to recreate how things were in the first year of the Meiji era, when new possibilities in printing and the fine arts were being discovered. Following our Tokyo—The Printing capital and its Role in modern Japan held in the fall of 2012, this new exhibit reveals both the beauty of the art of printing that embellished the dawn of Japan’s modernization, as well as the great effort that went into its realization. We proudly welcome you to the exhibit, and look forward to hearing your impressions and comments.
Printing Museum, Tokyo
Printing Museum, Tokyo
Born in Tokyo in 1945. Graduated from the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tokyo in 1965, and after completing the masters degree course at the university became a research assistant at the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University in 1969. Became an assistant professor at the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tokyo in 1976, and later became a professor. Served as the Director-General of The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo from 2001, becoming Director of the Printing Museum, Tokyo in 2005, a position he still holds. His fields of specialization are Western history and Western cultural history.