japonisme: 12/3/06 - 12/10/06

09 December 2006


robert died this morning about an hour before it started getting light. as soon as i could see i went out and began to dig a space for him under a tree where he used to like to hang out. he's had other spots since then, but none for as long.

i wrapped him in his red towel and carried him outside and found i hadn't made it deep enough. it was kind of difficult because of all the roots, but i finally made it okay.

nine and a half years ago he developed kidney disease and i was told he wouldn't live much longer. i have been giving him kitty dialysis since then, so feel like i got ten extra years. about a year ago his heart began to fail, and for a year he's been on all these meds.

in the last month or so his eyesight really went, he lost a lot of weight, his legs really began bothering him. each change, he would adjust to, and he's spend as much time in the sun, or drinking from the pond as he could.

this morning he was hurting, i could tell, and when he didn't seem to want anything i offered him, and he was crying this pitiful little yow that he had always only done specifically get my attention.

i took him back on the bed with me and scratched his head and his chest to try to help him relax. i paused at one point and he put his head back to my hand. we stayed like that for ten or twenty minutes. i didn't stop scratching. and then found myself wondering if he were still breathing. i kept scratching for a long while after, not knowing, not caring, knowing it didn't matter--it would be good for him in any case.

putting the dirt back felt rude, but it was very important that noone, not squirrel, racoon, nor possum dig him up.

i wanted peace for him, and for the garden around him.

i herringboned mossy bricks over him, and felt guilty for doing this before his body was completely cold. but he had been gone for over an hour, and it also didn't feel right not to. it's easier, i learned a long time ago, to feel guilt than to feel grief.

08 December 2006

Frederika wanders across the field at dusk looking for the moon

Japonisme: Photographs From the Floating World

November 9 through December 30, 2006
Opening reception with the artist:
Thursday, November 9, 6-8pm

This exhibition is accompanied by a lecture at the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University on Wednesday,
November 8. Please call the PRC for more information (617) 975-0600

38 Newbury StreetFourth Floor Boston, MA 02116

Inquiry@RobertKleinGallery.comThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it
Phone: 617.267.7997
Fax: 617.267.5567

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07 December 2006

100 views of carl otto czeschka

die nibelungen, again, by czeschka

and then one of hiroshige's 100 views of edo.

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down to the sea in ships

on her stunning anthology of a website, featuring dozens of beautifully illustated books, the webmaster says, [Die Nibelungen by Carl Otto Czeschka is] "The best Art Nouveau illustrated book. Period ! The scans doesn't do justice to the images, heightened in gold. A pure delight. Enjoy."

czeschka was a member of the wiener werkstaette and the vienna secession.

the whole of hokusai's manga volume one is here. if anyone knows of anywhere the others are in their entirety, i'd love to know.


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06 December 2006

change & exchange

No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. Take an example from our own day. I know that you are fond of Japanese things. Now, do you really imagine that the Japanese people, as they are presented to us in art, have any existence? If you do, you have never understood Japanese art at all. The Japanese people are the deliberate self-conscious creation of certain individual artists. If you set a picture by Hokusai, or Hokkei, or any of the great native painters, beside a real Japanese gentleman or lady, you will see that there is not the slightest resemblance between them. The actual people who live in Japan are not unlike the general run of English people; that is to say, they are extremely commonplace, and have nothing curious or extraordinary about them.

In fact the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people. One of our most charming painters [whistler] went recently to the Land of the Chrysanthemum in the foolish hope of seeing the Japanese. All he saw, all he had the chance of painting, were a few lanterns and some fans. He was quite unable to discover the inhabitants, as his delightful exhibition at Messrs. Dowdeswell's Gallery showed only too well. He did not know that the Japanese people are, as I have said, simply a mode of style, an exquisite fancy of art. And so, if you desire to see a Japanese effect, you will not behave like a tourist and go to Tokio. On the contrary, you will stay at home and steep yourself in the work of certain Japanese artists, and then, when you have absorbed the spirit of their style, and caught their imaginative manner of vision, you will go some afternoon and sit in the Park or stroll down Piccadilly, and if you cannot see an absolutely Japanese effect there, you will not see it anywhere.
Oscar Wilde (1882)

Japan is more than just fancy but Wilde's senti- ments capture the mystique that surrounds the subject. When Americans first learned about Japan in the mid-19th century, it must have seemed a very peculiar place indeed. Nearly everything about the Japanese culture and lifestyle was a novelty and a complete enigma. Travelers to Japan, both then and now, attempted to discover the things which made Japan tick. Edward Said wrote in his book Orientalism that westerners have perceived the Orient through generations of enduring stereotype and even today there is an abundant literature by supposed experts on how to understand Japan and its people.*

"I feel an irresistible desire to wander, and go to Japan, where I will pass my youth, sitting under an almond tree, drinking almond tea out of a blue cup, and looking at a landscape without perspective" - Oscar Wilde (1882)

another tricky thing is.... even the "experts" nowadays can't tell, apparently, what the japanese made for themselves, and what they made strictly for expert. not just in prints, but in crafts as well, much of what we see in the aesthetic movement are reflections of japanese crafts that were designed specifically, and exclusively, for western markets.

we are fortunate, if we like this stuff. companies such as bradbury & bradbury have made many original wallpapers available again, beautifully. other companies as well are

reproducing papers, fabrics, furniture, and then, of course, there are the antiques. much is accessible through arts & crafts home.

the upper right image is a godwin upholstery design for liberty & co., below it is a b & b wallpaper sample; the plates examples are wedgewood. even the most sophisticated of travellers still found it difficult to remember that china and japan were quite distinct nations. therefore, you saw "chinoiserie" china patterns named mikado.

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04 December 2006

letting in the light

i love these prints so much; i can't say why. the first on the right, here, is by margaret jordan patterson. she was a student of arthur wesley dow. i was fortunate enough to find a calendar a while back with this in it, so i've had it on my wall for many years. i could stare at it forever.

this one is actually a contemporary painting by a man named thomas paquette. it fascinates me that he never saw mjp's image, never even heard of her. his work is one of the only painter's work that i can see the influence of japanese prints in the technique, not necessarily the subject matter nor even the style, exactly. it's the distinctness of each color, as though, or actually, outlined. something about the ways he uses color, i've seen only in shin hanga before; the translucency of the colors, the transparency of solid objects -- that he achieves this with oil or gouache is amazing.

walter j phillips was an etcher who grew dissatisfied with working in black and white. in the studio, he read of the woodblock prints being distributed and done in europe, and decided to give it a try. a trip to europe several years later where he met with other printmakers, japanese and european, filled in some fine points for him, and taught him about japanese papers.

isn't it ironic that the shin hanga artists made prints the way they did at least in part due to the fact that it was what they knew they could sell, and in so doing went on to inspire generations of artists as to how a landscape could be.

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03 December 2006

of clothing, change & illusion

It is with the delicious surprise of the first journey through Japanese streets--unable to make one's kuruma-runner understand anything but gestures, frantic gestures to roll on anywhere, everywhere, since all is unspeakably pleasurable and new--that one first receives the real sensation of being in the Orient, in this Far East so much read of, so long dreamed of, yet, as the eyes bear witness, heretofore all unknown.

There is a romance even in the first full consciousness of this rather commonplace fact; but for me this consciousness is transfigured inexpressibly by the divine beauty of the day. There is some charm unutterable in the morning air, cool with the coolness of Japanese spring and wind-waves from the snowy cone of Fuji; a charm perhaps due rather to softest lucidity than to any positive tone--an atmospheric limpidity extraordinary, with only a suggestion of blue in it, through which the most distant objects appear focused with amazing sharpness.

The sun is only pleasantly warm; the jinricksha, or kuruma, is the most cosy little vehicle imaginable; and the street-vistas, as seen above the dancing white mushroom-shaped hat of my sandalled runner, have an allurement of which I fancy that I could never weary.

Elfish everything seems; for everything as well as everybody is small, and queer, and mysterious: the little houses under their blue roofs, the little shop-fronts hung with blue, and the smiling little people in their blue costumes. The illusion is only broken by the occasional passing of a tall foreigner, and by divers shop-signs bearing announcements in absurd attempts at English.

Nevertheless such discords only serve to emphasise reality; they never materially lessen the fascination of the funny little streets.

lafcadio hearn, 1891
how does that jibe with: "with lightning intensity, japan entered the modern era. clans were abolished in 1871; a railroad was opened... in 1872. ...in 1877 , telephones were first used..."1 development occurred in everything from the novel to bicameral government, to the development, as we have seen, of universities, sciences, warfare, much that the japanese felt the west had to teach.

how does yoshida hiroshi's lovely view of a cherry-blossoming japan's women jibe with photos of how women really looked in 1935, when that print was made?

and lastly.... it's true, that in the 1600s, when the japanese cut off contact with the outside world, western women were wearing dresses. unfor- tunately, so were the men.

if the west had been isolationist for nearly 250 years, what would we have been wearing in 1853 when another culture sailed in and broke up our isolation?

no, i don't think hearn set out to mislead, i'd more suggest rosy-colored glasses. and yoshida only sought to sell his work: the producers of shin hanga realized no one really wanted to buy images of japan how it was beginning to look: they wanted to buy the fantasy. perhaps we still do.

1. joseph kestner, university of tulsa

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