Miya Elise Mizuta Lippit's Aesthetic Life: Beauty and Art in Modern Japan explores the development of Japanese aesthetics through the fluid concept of bijin (美人, beautiful woman) during the Meiji period and its lingering legacy into the Taishō and early Shōwa periods. Therefore, it is fitting that the volume begins with the 1913 painting On First Becoming a Painting (E ni naru saisho) by Takeuchi Seihō. Here, the model demurely holds her kimono in front of her as a kind of screen protecting her nude body from the gaze of the artist and public. Lippit posits the model as a figure of “dismay,” self-consciously contemplating “whether she should become an artistic subject” (p. 2) and an object of beauty (美, bi). In the course of her study, Lippit situates the bijin—which Takeuchi's model exemplifies—in a broader cultural historical context, underscoring the stakes of aesthetic discourses in...

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