Changes in the Japanese art market with the emergence of the middle-class collector: A study of Hishida Shunsō (1874–1911)

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This paper seeks to shed light on the early dissemination of, and market for, modern Japanese-style painting (nihonga), a term coined around 1880 in a surge of nationalist sentiment. Nihonga’s exposure in Japan and its appreciation by the general public are considered in conjunction with the development of new distribution channels, including department stores and travelling exhibitions. The distribution network also reveals the increasingly dynamic role of middle-class collectors as contributors in setting the value of nihonga. We focus here on the artist Hishida Shunsō, who suffered severe criticism during his career but whom later generations came to consider as a national icon: the historical narrative is analysed by reference to his letters and various contemporary media. In addition, reasons are sought for the development of the myth that Shunsō’s artistic career is mired in misfortune, and an evaluation is made of what this story tells us about the perception of nihonga.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-277
JournalJournal of the History of Collections
Issue number2
Early online date20 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Art Market
  • Japanese Art
  • Middle Class
  • Art Collector

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