Gennifer Weisenfeld will be coming to speak in the Modern Design History Seminar Wednesday, April 21, 2010, on “Cosmopolitan Cosmetics: Shiseido and Early 20th-Century Japanese Advertising Design.”

Dr. Weisenfeld is associate professor of Japanese Art History and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University, where she has been since 1998. Professor Weisenfeld received her B.A. in Art History from Wesleyan University, and both her M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University in Japanese Art and Archaeology. She has received numerous fellowships, the most recent being a residential research fellowship at the National Humanities Center and the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury fellowship at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, SOAS University of London. Professor Weisenfeld is the author of Mavo: Japanese Artists and the Avant-Garde, 1905-1931 (2002) and is currently working on The Fine Art of Persuasion: Commercial Design in Twentieth-Century Japan and Imaging Disaster: Visual Culture in Japan after the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923.

There is no Japanese company whose advertising design better represents the aesthetic of cosmopolitan chic in the early twentieth-century than Shiseido. The Shiseido cosmetics company opened its western-style pharmaceutical business in the Ginza in Tokyo in 1872 and a few decades later, under the banner of its stylish camellia logo and signature designs, emerged as one of the leading cosmetics manufacturers in Japan, a position it still holds over a century later. This paper will explore how the company creatively produced and conveyed meaning through the visual and material aspects of its marketing strategy in the prewar period. She contends that Shiseido’s commercial success was due to the company’s uncanny ability to merge images of a trans-historical, cosmopolitan, and largely deracinated fantasy lifestyle with rationalized notions of beauty.

Please join us in the Lecture Hall at 38 West 86th Street, between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, at 5:45pm for a reception before the talk.