The sweeping reforms in Meiji period society brought far reaching changes to the production and display of art. With the dissolution of the samurai class, traditional patterns of patronage gave way to new outlets. Metalworkers who had previously made sword fittings now turned their skill to making objects for no other purpose than aesthetic display. Art and craft began to be taught in colleges and art schools. World fairs such as the Vienna International Exposition of 1873 and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition attracted large numbers of visitors and stimulated markets for Japanese works of art. In 1870, the Department for Industry (Kobusho
) was established to develop the arts for export, followed by the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1889. A new vogue for Western-style decor in the Victorian mode particularly seen in the domestic furnishings of the Imperial Household prompted Japanese artists and craftsmen to produce a new range of objects. Important screens such as this pair were among this.
Yasui Hochu (1857-1922) began to study lacquer in 1868 under Uematsu Homin (1846-1899). A contemporary of Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891) and the carver Ishikawa Komei (1852-1913), Yasui Hochu became an independent artist in 1878, working for the Seikosha and Kiryu Kosho Kaisha companies.
Yasui Hochu and Ishikawa Komei collaborated with other artists to make an important shodana [cabinet] decorated with deer, probably exhibited at the National Industrial Exhibition in 1890. He exhibited two works at the Japan-British Exhibition, London, in 1910. In 1920, Yasui Hochu participated in the decoration of the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.