In Pictures: The Explosive Colour of Japanese Poster Design

An exhibition at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum will present hundreds of Japanese posters from the 1930s to the present day

In the early 20th century, posters came to Japan. Advertising anything from national railways to Noh performances, the posters displayed a unique visual sensibility distinct from their European counterparts. In September, Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum will exhibit 226 of their collection of 800 Japanese posters, which is the largest in Europe.

Kazumasa Nagai, Himeji Shirotopia Exhibition 1989, 1988, poster. All images courtesy: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Kazumasa Nagai, Himeji Shirotopia Exhibition 1989, 1988, poster. All images courtesy: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Kazumasa Nagai, Human Rights - Living Together, 1989

Kazumasa Nagai, Human Rights - Living Together, 1989

The Stedelijk exhibition, titled ‘Colorful Japan’, is a tribute to the Japanese graphic designer Shigeru Watano, who died in 2012. Watano lived in the Netherlands and helped the Amsterdam institution acquire their vast collection of posters.

Muneji Satomi, Japan, 1937

Muneji Satomi, Japan, 1937

Posters in the exhibition date back to the very earliest days of advertising in Japan. Made in 1937, a poster advertising Japanese Government Railways is the oldest work in the show.

Tadanori Yokoo, Amazo, 1989

Tadanori Yokoo, Amazo, 1989

Ikko Tanaka, Noh Performance, 1958

Ikko Tanaka, Noh Performance, 1958

Curator Carolien Glazenburg said: ‘Spotlighting 226 Japanese posters from our collection, Colorful Japan literally explodes with color. With posters floor-to-ceiling, the Hall of Honor walls immerses visitors in a kaleidoscopic world.’

Ikko Tanaka, Japan, 1986

Ikko Tanaka, Japan, 1986

Ryuichi Yamashiro, Forest, 1954

Ryuichi Yamashiro, Forest, 1954

‘Colorful Japan’ runs at Stedelijk Museum from 7 September 2019 – 2 February 2020

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