japonisme: "let us live up to our teapot"

13 October 2006

"let us live up to our teapot"

another name for the japonisme movement, along with art nouveau, liberty style, the arts and crafts movement, jugentstil, etc., is the aesthetic movement. while each of these have some elements that can never be confused with one of the others, they all overlap quite a great deal as to who claims what art occurred during their popularity.

but no appellation received more parody, derision, scorn and satire than the aesthetic one. i've already mentioned gilbert and sullivan's "punch version of japonism" -- 'the mikado,' but their 'patience' is a musical poke in the eye of aestheticism.

(aesthetic bridegroom: "it is quite consum- mate, is it not?"
intense bride: "it is, indeed! oh, algernon, let us live up to it!")

while many of it's critics: oscar wilde, george bernard shaw, wb yeats, and others, stood staunchly in favor of the aesthetics' creed, "art for arts sake," they lambasted the masses for being too superficial about it!

to be continued....

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aubery Beardley was one artist who was inluenced by Japonisme. For example his Salome ( for instance S-in peacock dress ) shows how cultural osmosis could be expressed as natural as possible.

13 October, 2006 23:50  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

great point, benny, and thanks for reminding me--there's this book i've been meaning to check out: 'Beardsley, Japonisme, and the Perversion of the Victorian Ideal'

14 October, 2006 03:17  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Lotusgreen, I have two reactions to this. First, I have never revisited Gilbert & Sullivan without being freshly impressed with their talent, intelligence and humor. It's been a long time since I thought about Patience, one of their lesser works, but it reminds me of how wonderful they are.

Second, while the teapot situation is clearly ridiculous, I have long been interested in the way that humans can invest a simple object with great aesthetic and metaphysical significance. During the "tulip craze" in Amsterdam, someone paid three times more for a simple tulip bulb than for Rembrandt's masterpiece, The Nightwatch. In one sense, that's as nutty as the teapot. But on another level, if you go deeply enough into it as a focal point, a tulip-- or a teapot, or a seashell, or a stone-- can acquire greater profundity than a work of art by some genius.

15 October, 2006 00:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re. david's comment may I add one point? the idea of an aesthete was not in a literal sense. Merely a 'pose', an attitude in the fin de siecle period as punk rock is for the modern. Living up to a teapot is investing in an everyday article of utility something that mercantile class (or philistine) could not have understood.

15 October, 2006 10:18  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

yes, david and benny, that's the exact controversy that i'm realizing was very heated at the time, and that i still feel inside myself.

most any of the items i'm writing about--or even designs for items that may or may not ever have been objects (and where does the difference come in between that sketch and 'art' if there is one), i can view in any number of ways:

they are things, true, and yet they touch something inside of me; they are blossoms that, unlike the tulip, never fade (on the other hand, a perennial is forever).

i think much of the criticism at the time was the thought that that right teapot would provide happiness, that surrounding oneself with beauty would make you happy.

and as much as i like to surround myself with beauty, as much as i like to create it, i know that it's not the key to happiness. (and, come to think of it, the tales of artists are so often filled with madness and suicide, it apparently didn't work for them either.)(on the other hand, perhaps collectors actually do get happy.... but that's yet another story.)

and thanks for your comment, benny--i think your comment is interesting. "let us live by higher ideals"? i'll have to go get some of the quotes i'm collecting (oscar wilde's for example) that mock that there was anything actually "higher" about it, that it was merely superficial.

i mean that's what we get into, isn't it?--that without it coming from within, happiness doesn't really come at all. and perhaps the "aesthetes" and "japonists" imagined they saw peace and happiness in these context-free imports, and and hoped to get there as an observer rather than as a participant.

15 October, 2006 13:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art and Aesthetics in our lives. Lotusgreen it is a slow process of driving roots into the truth of nature; a way of looking at things with a clearer eye. Why Italians on the whole excel in design ? in my opinion they have had head start over the USA by many centuries. Being surrounded with beauty (even though ruins now ) must create its impact. Just as the climate give the Nordic race their hardiness, 'the viking spirit' and so on.
Happiness is entirely another matter.
I am at the moment treating the topic from a mystic's point of view.You may refer my post.

16 October, 2006 00:09  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

benny--i think your thoughts on this are very interesting.

i remember having a thought when i was in paris, and there seemed to be so many young people running around that were so gorgeous. then suddenly i realized that i had developed my sense of beauty looking at (largely) french art. they were drawing their neighbors, and i was seeing (we were all seeing) the epitome(s) of perfect beauty.

every culture has it's beauty. i don't think we can say that any one country has an option on it. we are raised to see a particular set of standards as beautiful.

everyone is encultured this way. there are things that i really do not find beautiful, that are beautiful for someone else.

and the reason i mentioned happiness was because i was mis-remembering a quote. what i think wilde actually did say was something like, "being surrounded by beauty makes me more beautiful."

trying to find the exact quote.
one i've found is "we could get along very well without philosophy if we surrounded ourselves with beautiful things."

ok--here's what i saw--not sure if it's a quote or not:

"Man should surround himself with beautiful things, such as furniture, paintings, wallpaper, and architecture, in order to be happy. One must be careful to avoid creating ugly art, even if it is useful, because ugliness does not contribute to forming a morally good character."

16 October, 2006 17:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True! Each culture has its own norms and elelments of beauty. A Roman nose will look out of place on a Japanese. To the Chinese we are all 'big noses.' But there' re certain unchangeable elements: rhythm proportion etc. To be surrounded by such Classical buildings one absorbsthem by instinct.

16 October, 2006 22:14  

Post a Comment

hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

<< Home

newer posts older posts