Defiance via portraiture – the case of Etō Shinpei Dr Maki Fukuoka (University of Leeds)

Please join us for the third Art History Research Lecture, delivered by Dr Maki Fukuoka, Associate Professor in the History of Art at the University of Leeds.

In cosmopolitan cities such as Paris and London, the growing popularity of portrait photographs in the nineteenth-century were compared to the practices and appreciation of art, which were already institutionalised. The visual culture of Tokyo was quite different. There, the popularisation of photographic portrait unfolded in tandem with a major reorganisation of the political and social infrastructure instigated by the 1868 Meiji Restoration.

It also took place while the notion of “art” was introduced by the new government via neologism. Between 1868 and 1880s, portrait representations, especially in reproducible media including photography, gained potency.

Of course, portraits did exist in Japan before 1868. What is different, Dr Maki Fukuoka argues, is the fact that portraits come to hold political efficacy via circulation. They became images that could agitate and incited the viewers. In the eyes of the government, such images needed to be controlled and regulated.

For activists, the production and circulation of portraiture gained significance in their work. In short, the function of portraiture became destabilised. This talk examines circulated portraits of a Meiji politician Etō Shinpei (1834 to 1874) as a case study to articulate how portrait representations and their functions began to expand beyond its iconicity within a political discourse.

All Research Lectures will take place on Wednesdays at 4pm on MS Teams. To receive a link for each Research Lecture, please join the Art History Research Lecture Mailing List.

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