japonisme: 5/6/07 - 5/13/07

12 May 2007

i can see clearly now....

i was having a discussion the other day with someone about the astonishing amount of material online nowadays (just think of all that sheet music!). he said that pretty soon books will be out-of-date.

well, i have a lot of books on this subject.... i started to say... and he inter- rupted: and you never use them anymore, right?

not right! it drives me crazy how much stuff is in these books that is simply not online yet--i sometimes search for hours. sometimes i get lucky, sometimes not so much.

the thing i was hunting for today: in my bible, 'japon- isme,' by sigfried wichmann, referenced is a book, or collection of books, from the early 1800s. they are quite literally handbooks of japanese horticulture.

when all the other japanese influences were arriving on western shores, botany was as well (see the posters above for advertisements for horticultural expositions at the world's fairs),

and when you see these simple drawings alongside the glass creations from nancy, the galle and the daums.... and the baccarat, and the others you see here, the designs of the plants and flowers are as much copies as were the van gogh geisha. i have tried my best to give you an idea from what i could find, but that sound you hear is me grinding my teeth.

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11 May 2007

my yiddisha nightingale

1. Miss Minnie Rosenstein

Had such a voice so fine
Just like Tetrazzini
Any time that Minnie sang a song
You'd think of real estate seven blocks long
Some song!

Young Mister Abie Cohn used to call to her home
Just to hear her singing
Presents he was bringing
Full of bliss!
One night young Abie proposed to the Miss
Like this!

Yiddisha nightingale, sing me a song
Your voice has got such sweetness that it makes me strong
Yiddisha nightingale, sing me a song
I promise that I'll take you on a long honeymoon
I'd give a dollar to hear you, my queen

I wouldn't give a nickel to hear Tetrazzini
Just to hear your cultivated voice good and strong
I'd serve a year in jail
Yiddisha nightingale
Won't you sing me a song?

2. Then said young Abie Cohn
"I'm going to buy a home
One that's made of marble
Dear, where you can warble harmony
And I don't care for expenses you see
That's me!

I'll go and learn to play on the piano, say
You'll sing while I'm playing
People will be saying
As they pass
Some class!"

[song by irving berlin; toshikata mizuno; japanese fabric via florizel; charles louis verwee, a belgian, painted 'vanity.' the vase is by ando jubei, from the meiji era in japan; some considered it the golden age for cloisonne created for export, with the encouragement of the government.1 book design by carlos schwabe; george lepape did the artwork, but i don't know the designer....; lastly is flower viewing from shuntei miyagawa.]

the tune is here.

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10 May 2007


Robert Frederick Blum was a leading American painter, etcher and illustrator of the late nineteenth century. After finishing his studies, he moved to Munich, Germany where he lived and worked for a year. Arriving back in New York City in 1879, Blum established a studio, and before long developed a reputation as a major illustrator; his piece on the right is called 'a Japanese daughter,' and was on the cover of Scribners magazine, one of the first American illustrations to be printed in color. Commissioned by various publications, Blum traveled and worked in England, Italy, Spain, France, Holland, Belgium and Japan. He was, in fact, one of the first Americans to visit Japan and the work he produced there from 1890 to 1892 established his reputation.

With its fine atmospheric effects, the art of Robert Blum has often been seen as a major influence upon the development of American Impressionism. As well, in 1880, 1881 and 1885, he lived and worked in Venice where he came into contact with such American artists residing there as Frank Duveneck, Mortimer Menpes, Joseph Pennell and, most importantly, James McNeil Whistler. Many of Blum's etchings from this period explore similar compositional elements to those of Whistler. 1

For Augustus Vincent Tack, perhaps more than and other artist, The Phillips Collection [of American Art] is both spiritual home and permanent memorial. Tack's personal history is inextricably linked with that of the museum and its founder. He counseled Duncan Phillips on purchases and participated in the administration and decoration of the collector’s fledgling museum. With characteristic independence, Phillips purchased and commissioned many works by Tack, quickly becoming his foremost patron. In 1914, Phillips recorded in his journal his first reaction to Tack’s work when he stated, "my earliest acquaintance with the landscapes of Augustus Tack was one of those experiences which mark an epoch in one's own mental development.... some small panel-shaped canvasses--made me more or less catch my breath with delight."

Phillips felt an affinity for Tack's subjective explorations of nature — country fields in twilight, misty skies, and roseate mountaintops — and for his quiet and poetic view of art that suggested a longing for transport into imaginary realms. In his first published writing on Tack in 1916, Phillips seemed awed by the artist's eclectic broad-mindedness, which had prompted his fascination with both Japanese prints and Gothic glass and even "the sensational performances of Picasso." Phillips added that Tack was responsive "to the most startling revolutionary disturbances in the realms of painting and music." Phillips admired Tack’s rare blending of “abstract mysticism and technical innovation,” his passion for color and decorative surface effects, his fascination with Asian art, and his sensitivity to the parallels between music and art, all of which entered into the artist’s abstractions. 2

[to me, tack's abstracts are a really interesting progression; one can still see the influence of the japanese, but breaks it into pieces.]

to mention some old and new japonisme occurrences on the web. i recently bemoaned the fact that i didn't read japanese, and this week it's russian i don't read and wish i did. but as carrie said, pictures aren't in russian. so no matter what languages you speak, check out her blog, and really funny lady's too for some surprising beauties.

and princess haiku has posted a wondrous assortment of japanese chrysanthemum stamps.

the image above, with the woman with her back showing in the mirror (i was going to say 'the woman in the orange kimono') is by american impressionist frank h desch.

the sheet music is illustrated by 'ray,' yet another mystery illustrator. the japanese print with the kitty is from utamaro kitagawa, and lastly, another poiret (don't know who designed the fabric) painted by a e marty.

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09 May 2007

the king of fashion and his king

because i am annoyed and so disappointed that the met has not constructed a website for their new, opening today, exhibit on paul poiret (king of fashion), i decided to instead devote today's post to raoul dufy, who was given fashion/artistic freedom by poiret as they made-over western fashion in the style of the japanese.

poiret handled the lines, the cuts of the fabric, and dufy designed the fabrics

themselves. it is astonishing to do a little research into women's fashion in the 1800s. it was quite literally not until the final half decade of the century that colors, other than black and white, were allowed in the door.

and it was past the century mark itself before color and pattern beyond calico showed on the well-dressed woman. and at the very same moment, the whole shape of the fashions changed as well.* gone were the corsets and the bustles and stays. yes, there were 'hobble skirts,' also poiret's doing, but for the most part women's bodies had been freed.

many of dufy's designs were created using woodblock prints, thereby using both method and themes he found in japanese art. poirot, even an entrepreneur, commissioned some of paris's newest and best artists to paint portraits of his dresses for publicity purposes. he used a technique called pochoir, also modeled after the woodblock.

Dufy transformed the face of fashion and fabric design, formulated practically all modern fabric design between 1909 and 1930, and his style most radically influenced the popular arts and the commercial design of the Western world. Even today, his vision influences the color, design, texture and imagery of a wide range of products such as book covers, perfumes, posters and stage decor, and textiles for furniture and clothing.

It was his friendship with Poiret that first gave Dufy the scope he needed to develop his talents. His fabrics immediately aroused great interest. Dufy's designs were very different from the available printed silk fabrics which had small paisley or polka dot designs. Dufy's fabrics were stunning and Poiret used them extensively in his fashions, creating magnificent coats, capes and dresses in sumptuous silk brocades block-printed with large designs, such as La Perse; and when Poiret took his models to the races to publicize them, they were the center of attraction.

Dufy designed and carved woodcuts for me based on the illustrations he had just created for Apollinaire's Bestiaire. I made dresses with the sumptuous materials printed from them................ Paul Poiret, En Habillant l'Epoque, Paris, 1930. 2

The cat

I wish in my house: A woman having her reason, A cat passing among the books, Friends in any season Without which I cannot live.1

(le chat translated by google. see previous dufy entry here, and poiret here and here. oh, and doesn't the owl one remind you of this?)

* in fact, the only place they changed as quickly and dramatically was, well, japan.

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08 May 2007

Yone Noguchi in Yeats's Japan

Ezra Pound has long been credited with introducing William Butler Yeats to the Noh in 1913, but it was actually the Japanese poet Yone Noguchi (1875-1947) who first proposed Yeats should study the Noh, as early as 1907, when he published an article, “Mr Yeats and the No” in the Japan Times.

My discovery of this article, along with a group of hokku poems Yeats plagiarized from Noguchi, should significantly change our understanding of the intertextual dynamics of Yeats's Japanese interests. Although Yeats neglected to publicly acknowledge Noguchi, his cultural borrowings were not a one-sided “appropriation” or “discovery” as scholars have suggested, but part of a complex interchange in which both Noguchi and Yeats exploited cross-cultural commonalities toward analogous projects of cultural nationalism.

Noh and hokku provided Yeats with useful poetic and dramatic models rooted in an exotic tradition, while Noguchi credited Yeats's poems with ‘the sudden awakening of Celtic temperament in my Japanese mind’ and learned from the Irish poet how traditional forms could be revived, reinvented, and made relevant to modern audiences.

Dr. Edward Marx, Associate Professor of Euro-American Culture, Faculty of Law and Letters, Ehime University, JAPAN 1

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07 May 2007

and they all have one thing in common...

but of course many of the sheet music covers owed a tremen- dous amount to japonisme with regards to style, not merely the ones with asian themes. we've got wiener werkstatte yiddisher boys and violin-playing clowns.

speaking of wiener werk- statte, we've also got a hymn to hawaii and some- thing involving vampires and tipperary.

there were the copycats.

and there were the real copycats. interestingly, it was gene buck who did the blue wilhelmina. buck was president of ascap for many years, and as well as his proli- fic illus- tra- tion work, he also wrote, or directed, or acted in plays, wrote the music too. i could find nothing else that copied anything else.

gene buck also did work that was just flat-out beautiful, as did many other artists, sung and... uh... unsung.

and then there are the ones that make you scratch your head and double-check the date: sapho (sic) (and she looks a little like me to me!) and, well, positively psychedelic!

some are just down- right, well, con- fused. (um... those are irises, not lilies) and.... (that's mt fuji, mate. you won't find that in hawaii).

and the ones you're just happy to find.

(by the way, i looked up lauterbach and it really does look a lot like this. but WAY LESS JAPANESE!)

with the diagonal structure, the dark outline, the all-over patterns, the blocks of color, the simplification of detail and line, and the appearence of being woodblocked rather than painted, these sheet music examples become prime illustrations of japonisme.

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