japonisme: the mikado

23 September 2006

the mikado

while the mikado, 1885, fanned the flames of japonisme, as much as it was itself a flame, it had not dimmed throughout the twentieth century.
the wonderful artist, designer, and maker of books, charles ricketts, designed a whole new costume scheme in the mid-twenties, right about the time when w. russell flint did the breathtaking illustrations.

this is interesting to me because we have entered a different realm here; not sure i know how to talk about it yet, but i'll try: these are not examples of artists being inspired, informed, by the newness of what they're seeing but rather maybe by the novelty. i'm not lumping this in with using women in kimono to sell corsets or whatever; here there are truly artistic results. but it is a place where "the japanese" is "the other" that we can use on "us."

nor am i selling this as politically incorrect. i for one have been grateful most of my life for what the japonisme creators brought into the world. but it is one thing to be moved by something implicit in a culture's culture, and to elaborate upon something external is something else.

it's been called the punch version of japonisme.

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Blogger lotusgreen said...

apparently, though, it has been accused of political incorrectness: "There’s much to deplore in Gilbert’s creations: nasty racism, an insufferable obsession with class (embraced even as it appears to be refuted), jingoism, which is sometimes satirized but often (as in the faux-japonisme of The Mikado) unconsciously accepted, as well as the constant distasteful bludgeoning of middle-age women. But just as we forgive Shylock in order to embrace King Lear, so we must suspend our moral indignation to revel in the best of Gilbert."
read it here

23 September, 2006 19:24  

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