japonisme: 5/20/07 - 5/27/07

26 May 2007

thirty-six views of notre dame?

we have talked about the japanese custom of producing prints in series; both hokusai and hiroshige produced, among others, 'thirty-six views of mt. fuji.'

henri riviere went on to follow that mode with his own 'thirty-six views' -- this time of the eiffel tower.

today i happened across what i think is another set: 'thirty-six views of notre dame,' though i can find no reference to it as such.

nevertheless, the series follows all of the conventions of the japanese prints, the diagonal lines, the large foreground framing objects, the outlines, and, most important of all, the appearance of the supposed 'view' almost disappearing in some of them.

the printmaker this time is czech artist tavik františek šimon, a painter who moved to paris, travelled the world, and signed his name in the japanese style as did his comtemporaries.

a wonderful, quite thorough, website about him has been created; in it all of his work beyond prints -- he was a painter, primarily (but i love his prints!) -- , his contemporaries so one can see context, articles and reviews of his work, his family, and more.

i've only found twenty-six 'views of notre dame' on the graphics pages of this site, and some of my identi- fications may be flawed, but i can't believe that this is a coincidence, and that these happen to have been created simply by random chance, when they so easily fit the form.


Labels: ,

25 May 2007

the floating world of paris

you would think this would be obvious, but isn't it neat how when you begin to study something you actually learn new things. i'm reading a book at the moment, japan, france, and east-west aesthetics, by jan walsh hokenson. in it she explores a much broader palatte as to how japonisme was made visible in all of the arts, not just the visual ones, and in thought itself.

this book is one of the reasons i've been introducing glimpses into the writing of the authors whose work she explores as being of that bunch. as i read more, i'll be able to post more substantive things rather than just topical quotes. the tough part is finding great translations (in her book all of the translations for the french are in the back of the book, which makes me a little crazy). so. one step at a time.

but another topic she addresses is the fact that yet another facet of the japanese work was embraced by the westerners: who, and what, was painted. these are not girls you would bring home to mother.

utamaro's courtesans and toulouse- lautrec's prostitutes, while probably not sharing the same status in society, do in fact share the same profession. as do the geisha, the kabuki star, loie fuller, and sarah bernhardt. this is the floating world; this is glitter beyond reality, where every face is painted, and every gown dazzles.

fortunately, this is not an isolated incident of this bit of observation: i found a phenomenal website with much enlightenment on the period, its causes, its crazes, and even with a poem by honor moore about the lautrec painting of the woman in orange.

from the website: Perhaps more than any of his peers, Lautrec’'s brilliant, fluid, economical compositions documenting the dance halls, nightclubs and bordellos of Montmartre best reflect the ukiyo-e influence in both content and technique.

Labels: , ,

24 May 2007

poppies redux

"The common white lily which grows in Europe, and which even before the Middle Ages was regarded by the Church as emblematic of virginity, does not seem to have existed in Palestine; and when, in the Song of Songs, the mouth of the Beloved is compared to a lily, it is evidently not in praise of white, but of red lips. The plant spoken of in the Bible as the lily of the valleys, or the lily of the fields, is neither more nor less than the anemone.

"This is proved by the Abbé Vigouroux. It abounds in Syria, round Jerusalem, in Galilee, on the Mount of Olives; rising from a tuft of deeply-cut, alternate leaves of a rich, dull green, the flower cup is like a delicate and refined poppy; it has the air of a patrician among flowers, of a little Infanta, fresh and innocent in her gorgeous attire."

-- J.K. Huysmans 1

On the surface, Henry James, the fastidious American anglophile, and Pierre Loti, the Orientalist writer
par excellence, could not be more different.

However ... James was drawn – ‘surrendered’ is the word he uses – to the seductive charms of Loti’s prose, which he describes as ‘poetry in observation, felicity in sadness’, which can suggest a world of meaning in the apparently simple description of a poppy. .2

The subject of poppies was a common one in French and Impressionist painting. It had recently become especially associated with Claude Monet (Les Champs de Coquelicots — Coquelicots près de Vétheuil 1880 — Coquelicots Rouges à Argenteuil), two of whose Giverny poppy field paintings of 1885 had garnered tremendous attention when they were included in the first great American show of French Impressionist art held in New York City at the American Art Association in April of 1886.

Poppies had been painted in Grez in 1885 also, by the Swedish painter, Karl Nordstrøm and the American, Theodore Robinson . And in 1886, a group of American painters, John Singer Sargent, Edwin Blashfield, Edwin Austin Abbey, and Frank Millet, were all painting poppy pictures in the art colony of Broadway in the West of England. At the same time that Vonnoh was completing Coquelicots, Childe Hassam was investigating the theme in the garden of the poet, Celia Thaxter, on the Island of Appledore off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine (Poppies, Isles of Shoals, 1891). 3


Labels: , , ,

23 May 2007

muguet, for luck

i have mentioned before that despite there being no nasturtiums that i could find in any japanese art, they are one of the most popular flower images in the whole japonisme era.

another popular, if not quite as popular, flower is the lily of the valley, muguet in france, also not seen in japanese art.

well, thanks to the mfa boston, i have finally found one image of lily of the valley out of japan!

let's just say that though it was clearly done after being influenced by art nouveau, and may have even been made for export, it counts anyway!



22 May 2007

is it easy?

The old pond!
A frog leapt into --
List, the water sound!
--Yone Noguchi

Ah! le vieil etang!
Et le bruit de l'eau
Ou saute la grenouille!
--Michel Revon

An ancient pond!
A frog leaps in;
The sound of the water!
--Minoru Toyoda

Into an old pond
A frog took a sudden plunge,
Then is heard a splash

--Inazo Nitobe

these translations are from here. yone noguchi we already talked about with regards to the friendship he had with yeats. michel revon was among the earliest french poets to become enamoured with and influenced by haiku and other forms of japanese poetry.

(outtakes here)

Labels: , , , , ,

21 May 2007


i have started another blog: la dépèche. whenever i find something that pertains to this blog on someone else's i like to post it with a link, but if i love someone else's blog and they rarely have something japonisme-y, now i have a place where i can say so.

i don't have a 'blog roll' here because all the sidebar links are related to the topic, but now i can have entire blog roll blog!

and also, i must admit, though i do so sometimes, i generally feel reluctant to talk about personal things here, for the same reason. now there's a place for that too.


from "Sunstone" by Octavio Paz
translated by Eliot Weinberger

your skirt of corn ripples
and sings,
your skirt of crystal,
your skirt of water,
your lips, your hair,
your glances rain
all through the night,
and all day long
you open my chest with your fingers of water,
you close my eyes with your mouth of water,
you rain on my bones,
a tree of liquid
sending roots of water
into my chest 1

what is fascinating to me is how authentic japanese- styled work originating everywhere in the world can appear. these are all from 'nuevo mundo,' a magazine from spain that was published during the first decades of the twentieth century. i have not been able to learn a lot about this periodical, but i believe it was a journal of art and literature, poetry, etc.

even more disappointing to me is the fact that the artists (visible, when available, by clicking on the image) don't seem to be online yet either.

and it certainly was not, as we continue to see, a french/ american/ british phenomenon, but genuinely world-wide. isn't that stupendous? (and doesn't that next to last one look like raoul dufy?)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

20 May 2007


i am finding that colors that are common in the west in women's clothing are frequently quite uncommon in japan. perhaps the symbology of colors is more important in some cultures than in others.

in japan, for example, a guest must not wear purple or white to a wedding. purple is the color which fades the most quickly, and white, in most eastern countries, is associated with death.

black, also, is often associated with death and mourning, black with red might be acceptable, but not black with white as this is a funeral combination. interesting that death and purity are combined in so many cultures.

in japan, the spirits are usually dressed in white, signifying the white burial kimono used in edo period funeral rituals. in shinto, white is a color of ritual purity, traditionally reserved for priests and the dead.1

you will see very few black or white kimono on women. they are somewhat more common for men. colors in the purple and blue ranges are also less common than those of the red-yellow-orange.

other than a wedding guest not wearing white (or perhaps black?) i don't know of much credence lent to the colors we wear in the west. do you?

Labels: , , , , , ,

newer posts older posts