japonisme: 4/8/07 - 4/15/07

13 April 2007

more japonisme in book design

what, one might think, does this child fash- ioning a game out of book furniture have to do with japon- isme, and then one realizes the artists, jessie wilcox smith and elizabeth shippen green, have given themselves away by making the only easily identifiable cover be one of the bound collection of issues of s. bing's 'artistic japan.' (from here)

i like this simple offering by peeter kippik for the drawing, yes, but also for the very calligraphic lettering. (from here)

as i typed in the search terms 'crows in japanese art,' i laughed at myself. one of the strongest and clearest memories i have from japan are the crows. they were a common element of japanese art, painting and printmaking, throughout at least the edo period (of 250 years); i'll guess it was a mix of presence, personality, and brushstroke simplicity, that kept them there.

and then there is this, an illustration to a grimm fairy tale, 'the seven crows,' probably, by gustaf tenggren
(from here who got it from here.)

clara chipman newton, a designer of rookwood pottery, also illustrated some books.

ohara koson was a printer and painter specializing in kacho-e, images of birds, flowers, fruits.

and i wish, oh i wish someone could tell me who designed these?

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12 April 2007

Yoshitoshi's Strange Tales: Woodblock Prints from Edo to Meiji

asian art museum, on larkin in san francisco
May 26– September 2, 2007

Hambrecht Gallery Features a hundred prints by Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839–1892) dating from the turbulent last decades of Edo Japan to the westernizing Meiji era. The exhibition is built around two series that deal with the supernatural, one from the beginning of Yoshitoshi’s career, the other from the end—stylistically so different that they could be by different artists. Sometimes considered ancestors of modern manga (Japanese comics), woodblock prints were known as ukiyo-e, pictures of the “floating world” of entertainment, especially of actors and courtesans. Yoshitoshi preferred other subjects, including events from folklore and history, often bloody. Colors are intense, gestures histrionic. In his later designs Yoshitoshi moved beyond the swirl of momentous events to portray human emotions with great psychological subtlety, which is his most important contribution to ukiyo-e. Through his work, a picture emerges of traditional Japanese society moving at a breakneck speed into the modern world.1

In celebration of "National Museum Month," Bank of America today launched the tenth season of Museums on Us(TM) by introducing the program in California. This expansion - the largest in the program's decade-long history - enables anyone with a Bank of America credit or check card or MBNA credit card plus one guest the opportunity to visit 86 of the nation's finest cultural institutions on both coasts for free during the month of May.2

for more info


11 April 2007

happy trails, sir

"Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God"

--Kurt Vonnegut


what about mary cassatt?

well, having just posted that lovely photo of sargent in his studio with his japanese dolls, i thought it would be interesting to see if i couldn't find examples of other artists with japanese prints, or ceramics, or kimono, or dolls, or whatever, from their collections.

so far not so successful, but i intend to keep looking and if you know of any, please let me know! thanks!

Interest in Japanese art and culture was ... propagated by French writers including the Goncourt brothers and Emile Zola. By the end of the nineteenth century, "Japonisme" had developed into one of the most important artistic movements of the time.1

zola (painted by manet) had a collection of spring painting on the walls of his staircase leading up to his bedroom, and collected asian objects which were showcased around his house.

[we know] monet collected Japanese prints because there were 140 found at Giverny after his death. Some had been care- fully framed and hung on the walls, while others were faded and torn with various layers of wallpaper stuck to their backs, suggesting that Monet simply cut them off the walls when he moved from one house to another. That he kept them for nearly fifty years is proof enough of their inspiration for him.2

[Frank Lloyd] Wright began purchasing Japanese prints around 1900 while living in Chicago, but expanded his collection greatly during his many trips to Japan between 1905 and 1922. He continued to buy and sell prints until his death in 1959. The Norton Simon Museum’s permanent collection contains more than 350 prints from Wright’s collection, which he amassed over a period of 50 years.3

and we have seen this portrait of tissot by degas, before, along with some of his examples of french young women discovering japanese artifacts. but it bears repeating.
and van gogh painted himself not once but at least twice with a japanese print.

that's it for now, but i really do hope to find more.

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10 April 2007

Studio: Boulevard Berthier, Paris

"This is Sargent's studio at 41 Boulevard Berthier, Paris. He moved here in June of 1883. On the 23rd of that month Vernon Lee visited and then wrote to her mother regarding the place. The studio did have some history to it as it had previously been occupied by Alfred Stevens (Belgian painter in Paris, 1823–1906).

The photo was probably taken right before the Salon of 1884 (though I'm guessing). His painting of Madame X is to his left and appears ready for show. On the easel which he faces, is the painting of his sister he did in January called The Breakfast Table. Behind Madame X, and hanging on the wall, is Dwarf with a Mastiff, which was a copy after Velázquez's painting which he made at the Prado in Madrid. The porcelain dolls sitting on the mantel over the doorway and the tapestries are reflective of Sargent's taste in the modern movement and attitudes prevalent in Paris at the time for all things Japanese -- especially prints. This profoundly influenced the Impressionists (the influence was called Japonisme)." 1

john singer sargent has been mentioned here before. (interestingly, it's one of the most often searched-for pages.) but today i revel in the discover of the john singer sargent heartland.

run by "natasha the ex-seamstress," clearly a woman with a deep connection to the mikado, the site is an astonishing, comprehensive, and wonderful encyclopedia on sargent, which will take me quite a long time to learn everything there is to learn from it.

so far, among other things, i've found another hammock, this time by giovanni boldini.

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09 April 2007

medium as message

once again i intend to do far too much in one post. this began, the seed, was ed weekly's wonderful post on swedish japonist, anders zorn. i had especially liked, of his choices, the little girls, sisters, playing beauty parlour in kimono.

another i had picked was his woman in a hammock. his is the one where the hat is on the ground beside her, and there are orange flowers. then i remembered tissot's images with a hammock, and went and dug up his two, the ones with the parasol.

then i wondered who else did a woman in a hammock, and found the wonderful courbet, with the flowing red hair. but then i started thinking about how many images there are of women lying down, resting, or ill, or even dead (think of the pre-raphaelite ophelia). a book called 'idols of perversity,' by bram dijkstra addresses just this in his profusely illustrated book.

"Art has only one gender," wrote The 19th-century French political philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. "It is masculine." Not only were the creators of the works almost universally male, but so was their audience. And their subject was women. Men looked, women were seen. The power to look is the power to name, to locate and thus the power to control, to manage the boundaries of acceptability.

" And when men looked at women at the end of the 19th century, they saw them through the lens of ideal domesticity-passive and indolent, the saintly asexual housewife. She was a "mindless, vacant creature whose only reason for being resided in her beauty and her reproduction function," writes Bram Dijkstra in his utterly fascinating, if disturbing book, Idols of Perversity. Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siecle Culture (Oxford University Press, $37.95). In this profusely illustrated volume, Dijkstra, a professor of comparative literature at the University of California, San Diego, documents a virulent misogyny that infected the arts in turn-of-the-century Europe and America. Combing through hundreds of art magazines and discussing the most celebrated painters of the time, Dijkstra uncovers a virtual "iconography of misogyny" in the representations of women in both popular and high culture.

" Dijkstra's lucid psychosocial reading of late 19th-century canvasses is unsettling. The progression of images of women he arrays-from invalid to seductress, from earth mother to sex-crazed monster-illustrates a persistent male terror of women's sexual awakening and a backlash against women's efforts to improve their social position. The closing of the frontier, the gradual disappearance of the independent worker and farmer and the rise of the assembly line had eroded the foundations of masculinity. With these traditional sources for the validation of masculinity decimated, men projected their anger, and their own sexual fears, onto women, into the acute, lurid, antifeminine symbolism" of late 19th-century art."1

not for nothing, the men are alarmed: "Femme Fatale is the first exhibition to explore the sexual politics of women's fashion in turn-of- the-century Paris, when courtesans and actresses set the latest styles."2 just as they had done in japan for centuries.

so now we come to where my brain just keeps circling around. in the art of the period in the west, as dijkstra has said, everyone is lying down. in all of the japanese prints, it's nearly impossible to find a reclining figure. and when you look for nudity, you have to wait a number of decades, whereas, in the west, it practically defined the arts.

in advertising, however, women in the west were standing up, often square shouldered, chin up, eyes forward, soldiers in feathers with grace. the japanese prints reveal women who rarely lift their heads up; all we incorporated is their posture. the graceful s-shape was adopted, as style, and as statement.

so it's all running through my synapses. the women in the japanese prints were very often courtesans, but never dressed provocatively. the women in the west had "morals" far more pristine, even if some experimentation was being done. and they were definitely not prostitutes.

i don't have any conclusion yet. please feel free to offer one if you'd like.

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08 April 2007

behold it is the springtide of the year

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