Japanese Cosmetics and Depictions of Beauty

Japan’s Modern Beauty

Mar. 18(Sat), 2017- Sept. 24(Sun), 2017

The Meiji period (1868–1912) imperative to adopt European systems in a wide range of fields, including government and politics, economy, and culture also affected the daily life of women in Japan, influencing their modes of make-up and ideas of beauty, fashion, and hairstyle. Edo period (1603–1868) make-up conventions gradually disappeared as new Western practices and cosmetic products and utensils entered Japan. Modern hairstyles and make-up, and emphasis on individuality, surged with the advancement of women during the Taisho period (1912–1926).
This exhibition, introducing the Pola Research Institute of Beauty and Culture’s collection of Japanese cosmetic utensils and magazines dating from the late Edo period through the Showa period (1926–1989), traces the progression and transition of the modern Japanese woman’s aesthetic sense. The image of the ideal woman at the time is further corraborated by selected paintings from the Pola Museum of Art, and the role of Okada Saburosuke (1869–1939), designer of women’s magazine covers and department store posters, in the creation of the ‘modern beauty’ image is explored.
We hope the exhibition will illuminate lifestyle transitions of stylish Japanese women in an emerging new age.


Yoshu Chikanobu, Manners and Customs of the Eastern Capital, 'Huku' (Good Fortune) Series : 'Youhuku' (Western Clothes), 1889


Bridal Cosmetic Set with the Family Crest of Five and Three Paulownia Blossoms in Makie Lacquer, Meiji period


Benisei, Lip Rouge Cup for Miyako-beni, Meiji period


cosmetic poster, ca.1932


Okada Saburosuke, Kimono with Iris Pattern, 1927


Dressing Table in Art Nouveau Style, Taisho period