Tokyo and Nagoya: Gendai no Zuan Kōgei-sha / Fukada Zuan Kenkyūjo, 1922 (Taishō 11). Later printing. Square 4to (258 x 191 mm). COMPLETE with title plate, 2 ff. (preface) + 30 chromolithograph plates of designs (title plate foxed, occasional light browning or minor blemishes, verso of some plates with light print-through from recto). Original linen slipcase (one tie lacking), color woodblock-printed daisen title panel (foxed), surface of the linen cloth is worn (but not abraided), probably a manufacturing problem with the cloth because even the flaps and turn-ins inside are worn (but not abraided), and the contents are perfectly sound. Very good. Item #4086
RARE COMPLETE SET OF THIRTY TAISHŌ-PERIOD ANIMAL DESIGNS, BEING A LITTLE-KNOWN JAPANESE ARTIST'S HYBRID INTERPRETATION OF THE ART DECO MOVEMENT, WITH SOME PATTERNS INSPIRED BY CLASSICAL EUROPEAN AND RENAISSANCE MODELS, AS WELL AS ART NOUVEAU.
In the Meiki era, "Zuan" pattern books were published as works of reference for the textile and garment industry; these found favor among ceramics and lacquerware craftsmen, and gave rise to a new form of art education devoted to Japanese pattern art, called Zuan. These books fostered the development of graphic design as an independent vocation, especially in the Taishō era (as here), and in doing so helped to synthesize a collaborative design community.
Our collection of stylized chromolithographs belongs to this curious form of "art reference" books. The artist states in the preface that he has created designs informed by various art historical eras, and has taken care to ensure that the illustrations do not fall into a monotony of style and color. In this regard we believe he was quite successful, as is attested by the thirty vibrant, eye-catching designs that consistently surprise and delight. Twelve of the designs were derived from "foreign" (mostly European) works; surely Seguy's illustrations were known to this artist. The remaining eighteen designs are described simply as "modern" are likely the artist's own (uncredited) work. Although the title of the work suggests that this is a "Collection of Selected Animal Designs," several patterns are in fact abstrations.
THE ARTIST: Almost nothing is known about Hara Mitsuo, save that he graduated from Tokyo Fine Arts School and later worked as a professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology's Faculty of Textiles. This appears to be his only published work.
THE PUBLISHER: Fukada Zuan Kenkyūjo published numerous important Zuan books; they were located in Nagoya which in terms of Zuan book production is not nearly as well-known as Kyoto. This firm merits much more attention than has been afforded by scholars.
The present copy belongs to a slightly later issued four months after the first. No copy of either printing has been traced outside of Japan, despite considerable searching through OCLC (which lists only the National Diet Library) and elsewhere.
REFERENCE: Sezon Museum of Art, Japanese Aesthetics and Sense of Space II. Modern Taste: Ornament and Eroticism 1900-1945 (Tokyo 1992), no. 321.