One of the most striking aspects of city life in Japan is the bold use of graphics: Posters and magazines continually shout for our attention on busy trains and streets. Artistically, we see the good, the bad and the ugly, but the work of Japan's first great graphic designer was consistently impressive.

Hisui Sugiura worked from the 1900s to the late 1930s, reflecting the desires and dreams of the rising urban middle class. Although most of his printed work was ephemeral, his daughter preserved many items, and donated a large collection to the National Museum of Modern Art. Over 300 posters, magazine covers, postcards and so on are now being displayed at the exhibition gallery in the National Film Center in Tokyo. This is a refreshing dip into a colorful, optimistic era of urban history, balanced with an Art Deco celebration of the natural world.

Sugiura was born in Matsuyama in 1876 and studied nihonga (Japanese painting) at the new national academy, the Tokyo Art School. However, a chance meeting with a charismatic artist changed his life. Seiki Kuroda was passionately interested in the new wave of Western art then hitting Japan, and encouraged many young men to become the country's first yoga oil painters.