japonisme: 4/15/07 - 4/22/07

21 April 2007

the flowering of japan in van gogh's heart

For two centuries, Japan discouraged trade with the rest of the world. In the 1850s, however, the country finally bowed to outside pressure and opened its ports to foreign vessels and Western commercial interests. Japanese prints, lacquerware, and porcelains flooded into Europe, creating a craze for furniture and crafts of Japanese design.

European artists were eager to abandon the staid conventions of academic art, and they freely imitated the bold, pure color, assertive outlines, and cropped compositions of Japanese prints. Japanese art created an indelible impression on Van Gogh.

He, like many of his colleagues, avidly collected woodblock prints: "We like Japanese painting, we are influenced by it-all Impressionists have that in common."1

The nineteenth-century woodblock print by Keisai Eisen depicting a high-ranking courtesan (
oiran) was reproduced in reverse on the cover of Paris Illustré, in a special edition entitled "Le Japon" (May 1886).

When Van Gogh saw the magazine, he made a tracing of the cover incorporating a grid that he later transferred in enlarged form to canvas.

[this is the same method he used when making the other above copies]

and this is van gogh's friend whom he called pere tanguy. he was an art supply dealer.
i would love to find the originals for all of the prints shown behind him (in both versions), as well as in the few additional prints in which he featured them, but so far no luck.

(previous coverage here)

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19 April 2007

singing the unsung

just a few of the books at pbo unattributed to any designer

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18 April 2007

at long last armstrong

so much is evoked by the book designs of margaret armstrong that it is inconceivable that there would ever be any style of design that would be unnatural to her hands.

here in this small selection, the pure, simple japonisme is obvious, including the imagery of poppies, dragonflies, and lotus.

but also obvious are the design forays into arts & crafts, an off-shoot of japonisme with its own particular character. the van dyke books take on this flavor.

in any case, the exuberance, the thrill with 'the line' and with ornament, the pleasure with the natural world, all make this woman--this designer's offerings still a gift today.

binding collection

american book designer
publishers' bindings online
unseen hands
flower bindings
beauty for commerce
handsome books (plus do a search for her name)

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17 April 2007

from whence commeth....

skipping over margaret armstrong and her bindings for the moment, i wish to take a moment to thank pk for his pointer, and put the question to y'all: goes around comes around? sun/nothing new? inspiration? theft? or merely coincidental???

as i am trying to do always now, i have put the artist's name in the image name. (but you can still guess.)

have these contem- porary artists been enam- oured with those french artists who adored their grandparents' work, or are my eyes playing tricks?

and of course, now we know where the french got it. except in this last case of course where the french is also the japanese!

MA later....

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16 April 2007

Sarah Wyman Whitman

Sarah Wyman Whitman was a true pioneer of American book design. Not because of her gender (though she certainly was a path-breaker for working woman artists) but for her seminal graphic sensibility, which transcended the commonplaces of Victorian-era book design. Whitman was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1842. She might have settled into bourgeois life after marrying the prosperous wool merchant Henry Whitman in 1866, but instead, she embarked on a serious artistic career. She studied painting and drawing in France, but she was most profoundly influenced by the burgeoning Arts and Crafts movement in England, championed by William Morris and others. (more)

more about whitman, and more of her book designs here.

and, again, here.

It has been said that she began “the golden age of American artist-designed bindings” of the 1880s, and that her particular style of lettering and stylized decorative vignettes anticipated what developed into the Art Nouveau style of the next decade.

and here --

and yet more here

this all because of harlequinpan who identified this artist for this book. and i have to admit. it's my favorite.

and i must also admit i have more book designers coming along soon....

oh, did i mention whitman was also a painter? in the mfa collection, of course.

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bertha stuart

there is little i could find on the book designer bertha stuart herself, though there seems to be an ongoing, even increasing interest in book design--and special focus on women in the field, and on japonisme.

one source of great knowledge on many of these beautifully designed books can be found here. each of his offerings, and we will visit him again, is carefully described, inside and out, and put into context.

additional selections maybe found here, and again... we'll be back.

and, wonderfully, here, where can be found this: New Century: the 1900s “Poster–style” designs flourish, with simple but eye-catching designs with a two–dimensional feel, and with the cloth color an important space–filling component of the whole; designers aren’t shy about using in–your–face typefaces in large sizes. Cloth grained to resemble natural fabrics is popular. Black–and–white and color relief halftone onlays appear on front covers, often using designs or images similar to those on the books’ dust-jackets. Imaginative designs appear throughout the market, from top–of–the–line luxury productions to cheap series bindings; the overall quality of American cloth bookbinding designs reaches its acme.

[i think someone needs to read this blog.]

lastly, on the wonderful japanese page i introduced yesterday, i found this amazing bertha stuart example. perhaps the best of all.

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15 April 2007


while researching something else, i came across this amazing blog. i was really sorry i didn't know japanese, and that the online translators are not yet out of beta.

this one reminded me of steinlen's 'la rue.'

since all of the images i've selected come close to the end of the meiji period, the same timespan of many of the mfa postcards we've seen, i guess it's almost like them imitating us imitating them. doesn't this cranes one look like the woman reflected in water one?

i love all the textures here.

this one could almost have been david goines in a past life.

i am very sorry that most of the book covers, which i found most interesting of all, particularly when compared to what was going on here at the same time, i just didn't feel would reproduce all that well. all the more reason for you to check it out!

but the magazines....

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