japonisme: designs

08 January 2007


when i first made this little collage, a selection of fabric designs from one single series by one single artist, i wanted to learn what i could about the artist, with regard to, as we were discussing. fashion and designers and such.

did the same artist who made this set of prints design both the fabrics and the clothing made up of them? (click the image several times to see full-size -- there is one print from the series below)

i learned nothing about this at all! what i learned about was this amazing character of an artist, author, poet, and general scalawag named iwase sei.

this was not a name he used, however, in any of his artistic endeavors. the name he used when he was creating this series, a manga purportedly analysing the personalities of all of the courtesans of the yoshiwara (pleasure district) through their calligraphy, was kitao masanobu.

kitao masanobu did very little art, as it turned out (a fact which surprised me since i thought the prints were pretty amazing), though he did become the illustrator for a writer of manga and other fiction named santo kyoden. santo kyoden, however, was also him!

as the japanese middle class had grown starting in the late 1600s, a market had arisen for materials about the yoshiwara, the "floating world" (which was off-limits to most men). iwase sei, who was active in the 1700s joined the likes of ihara saikaku and all of the ukiyo-e artists to fill this market. his titles offered ways for a gentleman to win admiration from a courtesan, and similar techniques.

i mentioned the crackdown on these artists discussing utamaro's shackling, and the same thing happened to this guy. when released, however, apparently he went on to become one of the instigators of modern fiction in japan. he also married two different wives, each a licensed worker of the yoshiwara.

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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!

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