In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Western writers claimed to be witnessing the end of pure Japanese art and the beginning of a disappointing phase of westernized cultural hybrids. By the 1880s, Japanese artists, critics, and policymakers were aware of this claim and sought to respond by elevating contemporary Japanese art’s value and reputation abroad. Japanese painting embarked on a new phase of development as a bipartite endeavour. Illusionistic oil painting and other forms of recently introduced artistic techniques became known as yōga or Western painting, while earlier painting modes became reconceptualised as nihonga (Japanese or Japanese-style painting) and were conceived as the continuation of an authentically Japanese art. In fact, however, both modes of painting were shaped by the imperative to exhibit and market Japanese art abroad. The new, international culture of public exhibitions went beyond what we typically think of as export art, reshaping the expectations that Japanese viewers had for Japanese painting. Focusing primarily on painting and craft objects in 1880s Tokyo, the author gives special consideration to Kano Hōgai (1828-88), the painter of the iconic Merciful Mother Kannon (1888) who was championed by Ernest Fenollosa and Okakura Kakuzō as Japanese-style painting’s hope for the future.