japonisme: seeking the floating world

10 January 2007

seeking the floating world

in 1989 an exhibition was in japan when i was. it was between shows at two different museums, and i didn't know about it while i was there, but other than that i would have loved to have gone. "seeking the floating world: the japanese spirit in turn-of-the-century french art." while it was shown in only japanese museums, it was assembled with help from the japonisme center at rutgers, which is where i bought the catalogue. (it is out there, i just checked.)

the selection of items is stunning, though what we are shown is primarily the french images only; the japanese 'equivalent,' when one was mentioned, is shown as a thumbnail. still, as always, fascinating.

i thought i'd go through the book over time and show you some of the similars they suggest, and others i've found.

the first japanese image i'll use is from yoshitoshi tsukioka. it's called, 'looking cool: the fashion of a geisha in the early 1870s,' from his series 'thirty two aspects of woman.'

paired with that in the exhibition is this poster from mucha. the copy in the catalogue reads, 'mucha's distinctive style of flowing arabesques and a unique use of variegated linear patterns suggests inspiration from such late nineteenth-century japanese printmakers as yoshitoshi.'

to my eye, this image by georges de feure captures a similar moment in a similar style as well. de feure, in addition to his attraction to the nature-based patterns and decorations of the japanese styles, as well as many of the kimono fashions, is known for portraying women in a way found in the work of few artists of the time.

in these, he found depth, variation, pride, thoughtfulness, and a wide range of emotions still notable for their wisdom. in this he shared something with yoshitoshi, whose series does the same from a japanese perspective.

the similarity may end there, though. while de feure linked up with samuel bing, indeed so much so that much of the interior of bing's l'art nouveau shop was designed and decorated by de feure, and the store sold much of de feure's furniture. de feure then went on to design furniture for high-end clients throughout paris.

yoshitoshi sold his furniture as well, but in this case it was literal: he had to sell his furniture to pay his bills.

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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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