Saturday, January 24, 2009

Early Showa-era children's book exhibition

During a stroll today in Ueno park, I came across the International Library of Children's literature. They were running an exhibition of children's annuals from the 1920s to the 30s. The illustrations to these books were at once weird and fabulous, some more than others. An illustration by an artist named Tanosuke was fractured and adorned with Miro-like abstract diagrams. They illustrate the feeling of the age brilliantly, little girls have bobbed haircuts that are almost identical to the boys and most children were depicted in modern dress with adults by contrast still in kimono. Modern machinery is celebrated in glorious technicolor center spreads one of which, dated 1939, shows a huge German zeppelin with cheerful Nazis waving flags in the background. It was sad to think that the generation of children who read these annuals probably suffered terribly afterwards when the war broke out. The exhibition ends November 9 2009.

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