In the Meiji era (1868–1912), Japan became active on the global stage, embracing new technologies, fashions, and design trends from the Western world. During this period, kimono design books were revived and evolved into print albums known as zuan-cho (literally “design idea books”). These print albums circulated among artists, designers, kimono merchants, and wealthy patrons in Japan’s major cities. Combining bold colors, geometric lines, and influences from Western styles such as Art Nouveau, they reflected Japanese visual traditions but also reimagined popular themes in the context of modern Japan. Created as style guides and design sources, these albums were also seen as independent works of art to be contemplated and admired.
Presented alongside Japanese Prints in Transition, this exhibition features a selection of zuan-cho from the Achenbach’s collection of artist’s books.