japonisme: 3/11/07 - 3/18/07

17 March 2007

layers of meaning

i have heard, and read, many different explanations of the many layers worn under kimono. the first thing i was told, years ago, was that it was a way of establishing status.

more recently i have heard that each layer has very particular meaning, as does the particular design, color, etc. i do not exaggerate when i say i haven't the foggiest.

today i read that the many layers was a fashion in the heian era, and then was revived during the edo era. this latter is when utamaro kitagawa made this print.

correct me if i'm wrong, but it seems to me that the only times we in the west have had a particular reason for wearing many layers, other than when it was cold, or we were escaping a pogrom in the dead of night wearing as much as we could, is when we wore many layers of petticoats, and then surely for 'decency,' but yes, probably fashion as well.

and perhaps the jokesters and pundits made wisecracks about the petticoats as they did about the layers; i wouldn't be surprised.

some info on this can be found in a discussion about a woman of the court, but obviously this is not a courtier but rather a courtesan. you can see by her hair ornaments, even if you didn't know the image was called The courtesan Imose of the Yoshiwara House.

and for the regency fashion plates, see cathy decker's fascinating pages. and pray these clothes never come back in style.

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16 March 2007

from Spring Day


The day is fresh-washed and fair,
and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus
in the air.

The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water
in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish- white. It cleaves the water
into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.

Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance,
and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger
sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot, and the planes of light
in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water,
the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost
too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day.
I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots.

The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is
a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.

--Amy Lowell

(mathews; mucha; will source others later)
[note: somehow the images disappeared from this post completely so i put them back. now the first ones will probably come back and there'll be two. i'll come back and fix it again.]

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15 March 2007

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

(carl moll; kawase hasui; henri riviere --thanks for the reminder, green tea--; hiroshige ii utagawa)

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14 March 2007

can't jump, either

i never noticed this consciously before, but it seems white people haven't had much in the way of bold, colorful pattern in their textiles (other than perhaps scandinavia?) until exposure to the fabrics from japan. at least the ones in the prints.

i'm not crazy about raoul dufy's paint- ings; grandma dee had a print of one over her sofa and that seemed just about right. but when i discovered his fabric design recently i loved them! while these are slipping towards the fauve/matisse-y era of western art, they wouldn't have happened at all without the required inspiration.

perhaps these were completed during his early years, while he worked in a museum, before he really found his painting style. but for me they are some of the most wonderful fabric designs of the era, and i'm glad he did at least these.

gakutei yashima lived from 1788 to 1868. he was also a poet and often included his poems in his paintings.

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13 March 2007

that line

Lucien Achille Mauzan dropped his first name somewhere along the line and went by Achille. He was considered a master of zany caricature and shocking juxtapositions.

Strongly influenced by Cappiello, he obviously agreed with the latter's statement that "Surprise is the foundation of advertising; it is its necessary condition."

Mauzan was born on the French Riviera, but moved to Italy in 1905.

He made several important posters for the Italian film industry in Turin, and then went to work at Ricordi from 1912 to 1917.

He is known for his posters of the war, and afterwards he worked for the Maga agency in Milan, and then established his own company. He also taught, thereby establishing poster artists influenced by him!

Many of his greatest works were created in Argentina where he worked from 1926 to 1932. In all, Mauzan published over 2000 posters. They're not all available, but quite a few are. Little online talks about the man himself, but he at least is not lost to obscurity.

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12 March 2007

european cult of things japanese

the european cult of things japanese was more than a mere exotic fad, as the results were more far-reaching than those arising from a simple love of novelty.

fashion and its accessories acquired a new importance in europe though the general enthusiasm for japanese culture. women wore long, narrow skirts with flounces, which in outline closely resembled the obi.

people tripped around the streets of paris as if they had just stepped out of the yedda ballet--which had its first performance in 1879.

the formal way of moving the hands and feet and the kinked body posture, together with the costly kimono-like clothes of the ladies of the time, exuded a mysterious, magical aura of oriental sumptuousness.

far eastern modes were like an intoxicant. the moment of cultural balance, so to speak, between japan and europe had arrived. around 1900 women appeared in theatres with voluminous head adornments, decorative combs, hair-grips, and hairpins along japanese lines.

these would be set in tall coiffures, equally influenced by oriental theater, ballet and operetta. from japonisme, by siegfried wichmann

(edo comb; vever; edo comb; pinder, bourne, & co.; durand art glass, vineland flint glass works; edo-era comb; edo era comb; max kuehne.)

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11 March 2007

the begetting of beauty

and hokusai found a view of fuji at hodogaya with twisted trees and twisted men, all looking in different directions

and riviere saw trees this way after seeing hokusai

and lalique saw trees and dragonflies

and mucha saw sycamore leaves like dragonflies

and they both saw green women with green breasts and toothy wing-like projections coming from their shoulders

and thus seeds and insects and twisted beings became woven into the new beauty that this synthesis was creating.

p.s. mucha imagined the jewelry and fouquet made it.

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