japonisme: 11/26/06 - 12/3/06

01 December 2006

the randomness of beauty

i've been down- loading items for years, and they have now found a use. and i've been down- loading more. i have to keep them organized, and i have one folder for the images of women i've collected for this blog.

now photoshop has a feature that it didn't used to have and that it took me way too long to discover, but once you find it, you can't imagine how you ever did without. file browsing.

and file browsing allows you to sort in many different ways. well tonight i sorted by 'color profile' and ended up with many really intriguing combinations, but these four fell exactly in order, all in a line, and.... it was like a ouiji board.... someone is channeling their own agenda. and i'm very appreciative.

(though they can't fit that way in this format, these were all in a straight line, skin, black, skin, black. the first skin is by theodore roussel. black gown is by john sloan. the 'fragrance of the hot springs' is by torii kotondo, and the last one is by ito shinsui. in this layout, however, i think it's really easy to see the difference in styles. added later: aha! i thought of a way to do it. click it to see it big.)

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peres de la nouveau

in 1895 a little man from germany opened a shop in paris. he called it l'art nouveau. the new art.

the man's name was bing. s. bing. he has two first names upon which no one seems to be able to agree:

sigfried, or samuel. being more an entrepreneur than an artist (his family was in the porcelain business), he turned astonishing instincts into a wealth of beauty. he wore a kimono when he was in his shop, selling arts (slightly japonized?), many of which he'd commissioned, from europe and the united states.

in order to encourage the interest and sales in japanese arts and crafts, which he also imported and sold, bing started a magazine, le japon artistique, which lasted three years. in it he educated, featured, and fascinated his worldwide readership (it was printed in three languages) with color reproductions and early photography of the objects he was importing and wishing to sell.

across the globe, another entrepreneur, not an artist, was soon to coin his own phrase: shin hanga. new prints. watanabe shozaburo was every bit the showman as was s bing. and his instincts were his guides as well. european educators who had been invited into japan, the meiji government's rush into all things new, put a halt on the japanese interest in the very prints, the ukiyo-e, that had been so fascinating the west. and even that market was dwindling.

watanabe collected his own group of artists, and inspired them to do the "slightly westernized" prints that he knew would interest a worldwide market. among them were hiroshi yoshida (though he was to break ranks), ohara koson, hasui kawase, ito shinsui, and many more.

one wonders where we might be without the salesmen, the showmen, and the entrepreneurs. perhaps far less rich, in the best meanings of that word, than i had ever imagined before.

(more on these subjects to come, of course)

(image by hasui kawase)

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30 November 2006

i just want to say....

...that there are many things to be learned here, some of which i'd just as soon never have learned. part of it may have been what led americans to put us citizens into "interrment camps" during the second world war: while we relished many of the gifts of the japanese, many of her first western visitors in over 200 years did not see the japanese as people. certainly not as equals.

"they" were either "toys" (being so little when compared to many westerners), erotic playthings (what else to think of a culture of "heathens" where sex is not a sin, and where the women of highest education and stature were the courtesans), or simply curiosities.

"conquerers" have always done that of those they seem to "better." blacks were only "part of a person--was it 5/8?-- in america for how long? women didn't have souls in many cultures.

maybe the japanese had traits that distinguished them from other cultures--what culture doesn't? but just as the octopus is only two chromosomes away from humans (or whatever), every single human on the planet has so overwhelmingly more in common than different that the difference is a trifle, even if it's a trifle that intriques, terrifies, and delights.

we can talk all we want about xenophobia being genetically coded in all of us, but on a practical basis, since refrigeration has been invented, functioning on that level only leads to war.

and i hate to give it up too! the idea of a people all luxe, calme, et volupte, skilled at things like tea, and flower-arranging, and empowering beauty above all things is a lovely fantasy. and ignored the humans for the humans they were.


29 November 2006

from china to paradise

one thing i haven't yet gotten into all that much is the fact that china started it.

i think calligraphy, writing, is at the base of design. in the west the alphabet grew, over the centuries, more and more straight-lined; in the east, it grew less so. yes, japan changed the lines of the chinese arts, crafts, religion, etc. as much as did the french, for example, when the line crossed the continent. perhaps, the japanese loosened it even further, and the french found some middle-ground.

well, i'm getting way off the point here. i could talk about aryan nature religions entering into china, then proceeding into japan.... in any case, and however one explains it, that is the route it took.

when i was in tokyo, i went to the tokyo national museum (whose website features some incredible treasures), and i saw one imari ware plate, with lotus and herons, that looked to me like "the missing link." it really did look like it was halfway between the japanese ceramics i was seeing around me, and what i'd seen of art nouveau. (sorry i can't reproduce it--the photo in my book isn't good, and the museum website seems to be down).

i felt the same way when i was looking through a book from the library and saw this vase from the 1700s--an example of 'peking glass.' this was chinese! (it's currently at the victoria and albert museum.)

the extra- ordinary 'cameo glass' vase is about as 'art nouveau' as it gets, but doesn't it now begin to look less 'nouveau' when you see it in context? it's by eugene rousseau, and it's from about 1880.

during the meiji period (1868-1912), stencils like this were used in the making of kimono fabric in japan. An exhibit is running from oct. 19 to 20 jan. 2007 at the maison de la culture du japon in paris. (via nathako )

this charming print by hiroshi yoshida is from 1926

and this one, by shiro kasamatsu, is from 1957!

and this book is from some time in-between!

and the one at the top? china. qing dynasty -- that's sometime between 1736 and 1795.

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28 November 2006

what do these 5 paintings have in common?

besides being all by whistler?...

the top print on the floor (above) is hiroshige's 'Cherry Island in Osumi Province,' from his 'Famous Views of the 60-odd Provinces' series,
done in the first half of the nineteenth century.
i didn't look for any of the other images,
but my guess is that they're probably from the same series.

the same black kimono!
in the last one, it's hanging on the wall!
i count three kimono (and yeah, that's the plural!):
black, peach, and white, and one red, one black, obi.

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27 November 2006

the dream v. the illusion

but don't you just find it fascinating that westerners seemed to think that by wearing japanese clothing, it would bring them closer to enlightenment, while the japanese thought that wearing western clothing would do the same thing
for them.

(william merritt chase)

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if not black...

i think at some point it became just as de rigeur for the artist to paint a woman with kimono, screen, et al if he wanted to sell paintings.

some of the related subjects i'll be looking into soon are the matched set of enterprising showmen in tokyo and paris who set an entire fashion, and misconception deliberately in place,

the questionable roots of the aesthetic movement, more kimono colors, and, just generally,

more astonishing beauty, and the ways it's still touching us today.

would you like me to try to put together a bibliography as i go along?

(starting upper left: john hubbard rich; robert lewis reid 1913; richard emil miller 1910; frank h desch; robert lewis reid 1913)

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