An International Symposium

This event has been postponed.

Japan entered an age of rapid modernization following the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry’s US navy ships on its shores in the 1850s. It soon became the first nation in Asia whose military and industry was on par with Western imperialist countries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

As the Japanese grappled with the massive effects of this rapid Western-inspired modernization, they searched for their cultural identity and increasingly turned to China for inspiration. The distinctively modern identity they built through the arts has only recently begun to be examined by researchers and through exhibitions.

This symposium gathers scholars from the United States, Japan, and Europe, who look beyond Japan’s Western industrialization to examine China’s role in forming the nation’s modern identity. It accompanies a major retrospective of the modern Japanese painter Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924) on view from March 28 to August 2, 2020, at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. A curator-led sneak preview of the exhibition concludes the symposium.


9–10 am
Coffee and Light Breakfast
Freer, conference room

10–10:30 am
Cheney Cowles
Dr. Frank Feltens, Freer and Sackler
Freer, Meyer Auditorium

10:30–11 am
Freer, Meyer Auditorium

10:30–11 am
Between Asia and the West: The Struggle for “Japan” in the Era of Modernization, 1860s–1910s
Professor Christopher Harding
University of Edinburgh

11–11:30 am
Tessai’s Private Space: Su Dongpo, Shitao, and Taiga in His New Chinese Collection
Professor Maromitsu Tsukamoto
University of Tokyo

11:30 am–12 pm
Antiquities, Modernity, and the World of Literati Art: Tomioka Tessai and the Kyoto Circle, 1895–1924
Dr. Tamaki Maeda
Independent scholar

12–12:30 pm
Discovering Tessai: Masamune Tokusaburō and Western-style (yōga) Japanese Painters
Dr. Michiyo Morioka
Independent scholar

12:30–2 pm
Lunch break

2–2:30 pm
Reinventing Oneself: The Artistic Career of Ōtagaki Rengetsu, 1791–1875
Professor Paul Berry
Formerly Kansai Gaidai University

2:30–3 pm
The Artifact of Literature: Rengetsu’s Waka Poetics in Word, Image, and Object
Professor Melissa McCormick
Harvard University

3–3:30 pm
Along the Scholar’s Path: A Study of the Mounting Styles for the Works of Tomioka Tessai and Ōtagaki Rengetsu
Dr. Akiko Niwa
Freer and Sackler

4–5:30 pm
Tour of Meeting Tessai: Modern Japanese Art from the Cowles Collection
Dr. Frank Feltens
Sackler, level B1 lobby