japonisme: upon further reflection

04 June 2007

upon further reflection

Meguro Chiyo-ga-ike, "Chiyoga Pond, Meguro." Chiyoga pond and a cascade flowing into it down a steep slope on which grow cherry trees in blossom, and bands of mist lying over them. Two girls standing at the foot of the fall admiring it. (Dated Dragon 7 =1856.)
Notable for the reflection of the trees in the pond, one of the few known examples. 1

Hiroshige attempts a complex realism of hue. He is the first of his countrymen to use perspective with freedom, if not always with accuracy. He is the first to defy established principles by drawing, if only rarely, cast shadows and reflections in water. 2

Saruwaka cho, Yoru Shibai, "Theatres by Night, Young Monkey Street." One of the best-known plates of the series. A full moon shining down upon the street, seen in perspective, lined with buildings on each side, and crowds of people promenading. This print is remarkable for the shadows cast by the moon, thus showing European influence in its design. (Dated 9th month, 1856.) 3

Ukiji, Akiba no keidai
, "Akiba Temple Garden, Ukiji." In the lower left-hand corner is seen a small booth in which is seated an old man sketching (said to be Hiroshige himself), and a woman and girl standing close by, looking across to the trees on the opposite bank, the lake filling most of the view. European influence is again seen here in the reflection of the trees in the water. (Dated 8th month, 1857.) 4

a fascinating, if oddly unedited, discussion of this appears here.

while most suggest that these 'new conventions' were influenced by the meetings with the europeans, there are those who insist that the japanese powers of observation, obviously so strong in so many areas, had simply finally been brought to bear here as well. and still others declare certainty that perspective, shadow and reflection were always familiar to the japanese (and chinese) artists, but that the choice was ubiquitously made to ignore them.



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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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