japonisme: 9/30/07 - 10/7/07

06 October 2007

cats, you say?

Ask which avant-garde artist Parisians of the 1890s knew best and you might be surprised by the answer. It was not Toulouse-Lautrec or Bonnard. It was Steinlen. It was he whose work drew most critical acclaim. It was also he who influenced Picasso and Braque, Penfield, Sloan, and Hopper. A posterist and printmaker, sculptor, illustrator and humorist, Steinlen's artistic and social impact was powerful.

Born and educated in Lausanne, Switzerland, Steinlen was familiarized with art at an early age, as one grandfather had been a lithographer and the other a watercolorist. After two years at University, Steinlen's father recognized his son's interest in art and sent him to a textile manufacturer west of Paris where his talent could be combined with practical job skills.
At the age of 22, Steinlen moved to a section of Paris known as Mont- martre in order to pursue a career in textiles. He was, how- ever, drawn to the lifestyle of artists, poets and musicians. One of his favorite haunts was the Chat Noir (Black Cat) Club where he befriended the renowned playboy Aristide Bruant, a patron of Lautrec. Soon Steinlen was illustrating for Chat Noir magazine and Bruant's magazine Le Mirliton.
Steinlen's drawings were casual scenes of city life until the 1890s when political unrest and economic depression began to influence his style. Steinlen's work was subversive and deep in political satire. He was greatly influenced not only by his peers at the time, who included Lautrec, Willette, and others, but also by contemporary literature. He was a very personal artist using his wife, daughter and family pets in many of his works.
Steinlen's works -- his drawings, paintings, and posters -- have such a strong sense of reality that they almost have a sense of movement. The animals may leap at any moment, heavy packages may drop, tears held back may flow. It may be this quality that has made him one of the most loved, most exhibited and most collected posterists of the Belle Epoque. 1
Penfield's success was due, in large measure, to his skill in applying the style of Toulouse-Lautrec and Steinlen to upper-class American subjects.

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05 October 2007

Degas, as he lives in my memory


József Rippl-Rónai

It is not easy to write on Degas the man; he shared his private life with few and was, anyway, a difficult man to approach, preferring to live in isolation, the sculptor Bartholomé was, so to speak, his only friend. With his help, Toulouse-Lautrec was the only one of our lot to cross the threshold of Degas' studio. What I know of Degas comes from Lautrec's stories, told in his characteristic, direct manner at our regular afternoon gatherings at the offices of the Revue Blanche, where several writers were also there to listen to him, thus Ernest La Jeunesse, Paul Adam, Félix Féneon, the two Natansons and many others, whose names I cannot remember right now. Oh yes!—one of them, to be sure, was that strange man, Alfred Jarry.

Lautrec told us that Degas jealously guards his best pieces, you might say that he alone takes his delight in them. He would not part with them for the world, certainly not to exhibit them. How happy that lucky man will be who now, after his death, will inherit them.

They say that in the late eighties he nearly lost the sight of his eyes. At that time he did not paint but modelled, but what is most intriguing, he fervently turned to photography, but to photography as an art. He posed real Degas pictures but in a painterly version. I have often heard it said that these photographs are marvellous, and since they mirror Degas' mind and soul, they are highly regarded as art. I can understand this love of beautiful, call them spoilt plates, because long before him I had made them myself, or had them made.

We, who were young at the time and decadent (in the best sense of the term) could see the works of this great painter only at Durand-Ruel's in the company of Toulouse-Lautrec, whose circle also included Maurice Denis, Valloton, Bonnard, and others, and later in the Caillebotte collection at the Galérie Luxembourg. At first we hesitated to do so, afraid to be clipped on the ears by someone in authority in front of Manet's Olympia, for instance, but, Renoir, Degas and the others were almost all also considered worse than lepers. To stand in front of any of these, staring at the painting for hours, was asking for trouble. We all remember well the shameless and impudent stipulation that these lepers could only exhibit in a small isolated room in the back, and only if Caillebotte was ready to add his stamp collection which was considered priceless. Preposterous, and my blood still boils when I recall that it was only after giving way to such an infamous demand that these artists—who are today loved by every man of good taste and sound judgement—could be heard or were allowed to breathe. Among them was Degas, the condemned.

I would not say that he was well-disposed towards young, ambitious searching artists of our kind. In fact, he showed little interest and would visit our exhibitions only in secret. And he was not alone in this. Cézanne, too, and Renoir did much the same. They knew scarcely anything about us, albeit we organized group shows at the most distinguished places, including Durand-Ruel's. If we had not helped ourselves, they would never have helped us. We had to stand firm by our convictions if we wanted to reach our goal which, thank the Lord, everyone of us in that small group was able to do. Later all of us, including the sculptor Maillol, made it to dry land. But except for Lautrec, who was more sociable than we were, we could never get near them, especially not into their studios.

I exhibited the paint- ing My Grand- mother in Paris about fifteen years ago. It caught the attention of a company of artists who had much sympathy for each other's work. Several of them are outstanding artists today, whom everyone talks about. About eight months ago Bernheim showed those of their works which Thadée Natanson now owns. Mirbeau provided a preface for the catalogue. Vuillard, Bonnard and Valloton are well represented. I often saw them after I moved from Paris to nearby Neuilly. They came to visit me on Sundays. Denis, Serusier, Ranson and for a time Cottet were also of the company, and Toulouse-Lautrec, too, until his death. The pioneers, and in part the most important predecessors of these artists were Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, Seurat and Signac among the painters, and Rodin among the sculptors, and of course Maillol, of whom I have previously spoken. I am sure I do not have to explain to anyone familiar with modern art who these artists are. 1

i find it so interesting, the similarities in the work of many of these men. the "nabi look." of course each artist also had many looks. to see much more of rippl-ronai, check out this site.

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04 October 2007

Aubade of the Singer And Saboteur, Marie Triste

In the twenties, I would visit Dachau often with my brother.
There was then an artists' colony outside the Ingolstadt Woods
And these estates had a meadow filled
With the hazy blood-campion, sumac, and delicate yellow cinquefoil.
At the left of the meadow there was a fast stream and pond, and
Along the stream, six lodges and the oak Dachau Hall where
Meals were held and the evening concerts. In winter, the Hall
Was a hostel for hunters, and the violinists, who were the first
Of the colony to arrive in spring, would spend three days
Scouring the deer blood off the floors, tables, walls, and sinks.
They would rub myrtle leaves into the wood to get out the stink!

The railway from Munich to Ingolstadt would deposit us by
The gold water tower, and my brother, Charles, and I would cut
Across two fields to the pastures behind Dachau Hall. Once,
Crossing these fields, Charles, who had been drinking warm beer
Since morning, stopped, and crouching low in the white chicory
And lupine found a single, reddish touch-me-not which is rare
Here in the mountains. A young surgeon, Charles assumed his
Condescending tone, and began by saying, "Now, sister,

This flower has no perfume --- what you smell is not your
Brother's breath either, but the yeast sheds of the brewery
just over
That hill. This uncommon flower can grow to an enormous height
If planted in water. It is a succulent annual. Its private
Appointments are oval and its nodding blossom takes its weight
From pods with crimson threadlike supports." With his bony fingers

He began to force open the flower. I blushed. He said, "It is
A devoted, sexual flower; its tough, meatlike labia protrude
Until autumn and then shrivel; this adult flower
If disturbed explodes into a small yellow rain like
That fawn we watched urinating on the hawthorn just last August."

Charles was only two years older but could be a wicked fellow.
Once, on our first day at the colony, at midnight, he was
Discovered nude and bathing in the pond with a cellist. She was
The only cellist, and for that week, Charles was their only doctor.
So neither was banished. But neither was spoken to except
For rehearsals and in illness. There is a short bridge passage
In a Scriabin sonata that reminds me of the bursting touch-me-nots,
That reminds me, also, of Heisdt-Bridge itself, in Poland! We blew
It up in October. I had primed the packages of glycerin, kieselguhr,
Woodmeal, and chalk. We curbed the explosives with sulfur.
I sat in primrose and sorrel with the plunger-box and at four o'clock
Up went the munitions shipment from Munich to Warsaw. Those thin
Crimson supports of the flower tossed up like the sunburned arms
Of the pianist Mark Meichnik, arriving at his favorite E-flat-
Major chord; and I guess that whenever a train or warehouse went
Four-ways-to-market right before my eyes, I thought
Of that large moment of Schumann's. The morning
After Heidst-Bridge I was captured and Charles

Was shot.

I was at Dachau by the weekend. They have kept me in
A small cell. A young lieutenant tortured me that first night.
Knowing I was a singer they asked me to perform
For the commandant early the next week.
By then I was able to stand again, but my Nazi inquisitor
Had for an hour touched live wires to me while holding
Me in a shallow ice bath. I had been
Made into a tenor voice! The commandant's wife dismissed me
After a few notes. As I was tortured I forced myself
To dwell on the adult life of the touch-me-not, that fawn in
Hawthorn, and my brother's drunken anatomy lesson that showed
No skill at all there in the silver meadow. I was probably
Stupid not to have fallen unconscious. When I was
Ordered out of the parlor by the Nazi bitch, I did, for the first

Time in two years, cry aloud. I think it was for my voice that
I cried so badly. The guards laughed, returning me to my cell.
My cell has a bench, a pail, and a wire brush. Every two days
Without warning the hose comes alive with water, moving through
The space like a snake.
Sometimes it wakes me about the face and legs.

I have lost so much weight that I can sleep comfortably
On the pine bench. I watch shadows in the cell become,
At night, the masquerade dance in the woodcut by Hans Burgkmair:

Its bird shapes, that procession of men threading the dance,
And Maximilian I greeting them as they twist past the banquet tables.
My inquisitor, all night in the chamber, commanding me
To sing, to sing!

When they fire the ovens out beside the pastures it is like
A giant catching his breath. And then there is the silence
Of the trucks with their murmuring engines. My delusions:
A sound like my brother's cellist, at this early hour, opening
The morning with difficult arm exercises; he said that she would
Play for him naked and until he became jealous. Then I would
Say, "Oh, Charles!" He'd laugh.

My favorite pastime has become the imaginary destruction of flowers.
I hear their screams. They bleed onto the floor of my cell. I scrub
The wall where a Bürgermeister opened the artery of a doe that
He had shot just outside the window.
Later, the Bürgermeister favorite butcher making venison flanks
Into roasts, how he sawed at the large femur of the deer
Like the cellist waking with her instrument, their right arms
Are beautiful with white muscles;
The butcher and the cellist died, here, admiring the noxious
Blue crystals on the floors of the gas chamber: the way,
At first, they darken to indigo and like smoke
Climb over your ankles, reaching your waist ---
You fall naked as into the field that is with a breeze turning
All its wildflowers, bladder-campion and myrtle, into
A melody of just three staves written for four voices:

Slaughter and music.
Two of the old miracles. They were not my choices.

--- From The Mercy Seat
Norman Dubiefont
©2001 Copper Canyon Press

By the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Dachau, alongside Worpswede, was one of Europe's most important artists' villages. At that time it was said that every tenth person in Dachau was an artist and this included famous names such as Adolf Hölzel, Ludwig Dill and Arthur Langhammer. Carl Spitzweg and Lovis Corinth were among those who repeatedly came to Dachau hoping to capture the special quality of light of the Dachau fens in their open-air paintings. Carl Thiemann was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague from 1905. To begin with he was engrossed with etching, but became increasingly fascinated by coloured wood cuts soon becoming a member of the leading group of modern wood engravers. Thiemann, who came to Dachau in 1908, was the last to build a house in the artists’ colony. His was the only one surrounded by a large garden.

Thiemann stayed in Dachau until he died in 1966. His best and most poular works are his woodcuts. They are cut and hand-printed with great precision and display resourcefulness in their use of colour. Theimann's themes and methods came to be modeled more and more after the Japanese prints he became exposed to. He even took to signing his pieces with the same kind of modified chop that many of his fellow printmakers of the time were using.

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03 October 2007

seaby & the birds

Allen William Seaby, (1867-1953), Professor of Art at Reading University, was an influential exponent of Japanese style woocuts. Although primarily a printmaker, Seaby also painted in oil and watercolour and illustrated a number of bird books, including Kirman's The British Bird Book (1910-13) and The British Sporting Bird (1936).

Seaby's body of work is a fine example of the influence of Japanese printmaking in England during the 1920s and 1930s.

The British colour woodcuts ... are a Western adaptation of the 19th-century Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. They constitute a strand of the 'aesthetic dialogue' between Japan and the West that is in many ways similar to the collaboration between the Japanese potters and pioneer studio potters in Britain. Both potters and printmakers investigated and adapted the methods and philosophies of Japanese art and crafts in their own work, and both sought to learn from and exchange ideas with Japanese artists. 1

Allen Seaby was an influential exponent of the Japanese woodcut method; his bird and topographical prints often treated Western fauna and flora in a manner characteristic of so many Ukiyo-e prints of the early 19th century.

Walter J. Phillips wrote:
Some ten years ago I produced a score of bad etchings which made me, and many others I have no doubt, very unhappy. My thoughts were in color; consequently I had little sympathy with the convention of line as a means of expression; I came to abominate the cold unresponsive nature of metal, the smell of acid and oil, and the dirtiness of printing inks. I meditated sadly upon the fact that if Meryon had not become afflicted with color-blindness, he never could have forsaken canvas for copper, and that Michael Angelo must have love color, though he never had much time to pay with it, for Vasari said that he was so pleased with Martin Schongauer's print "St. Anthony tormented by the Devils" that he set himself to color it.

Then I recalled an article in "The Studio" by Allen W. Seaby on printing from wood-blocks, re-read it, and the mutation from desire to accomplishment resulted. A magazine article on such a subject may be inspiring, as this was emphatically, but its brevity precludes its use as a manual. I had, therefore, all the fun of experimenting blindly more or less, which perhaps fired my enthusiasm. Morley Fletcher's book unfortunately did not come my way until recently, or I would have been saved many pitfalls. However, he inspired Allen Seaby, who activated me, so that he merits my acknowledgements. I tender very grateful acknowledgments also to my fellow color-printers William Giles, Allen W. Seaby, Y. Urushibara, and Frances H. Gearhart, for sympathy and generous contributions in an interchange of ideas, and to the three first and to John Platt, A.J. Musgrove, and Martie Hardie of the Victoria & Albert Museum for permission to reproduce their work or prints in their possession.

W. J. Phillips
Winnipeg, Feb 28. 1926.

(phillips' own woodblock manual)


02 October 2007

as in roses

There are many different meanings for red in every culture. It always means "blood" but even then it can be either blood shed heroically or the blood of a victim. In Asia, red is almost always good luck. Red (as with all colors) means different things depending upon the context in which it is used. In Japan, red ink is a traditional method of writing a letter than ends a relationship (like a dear

john, or a pink slip). A red sports car in the US might be thought of as a fun and "sexy" car, but if a middle-aged bald guy is driving it, it's seen as a pathetic display of male menopause. In most cultures, red is used to get attention. It's been a banner of revolution since the French Revolution (and probably before) and as a flag has become a symbol of populist, usually communist, revolts.

The Chinese, for example, have more than 30 single characters describing different kinds of red. Red of wine, red of silk, red of wood, red of meat.... Even more phrases are used to describe different levels of red. All these are not just about words, but how the meaning of colors evolves from daily life, not just for a single color RED. At least, we can know when is not a right time to use a color with right meaning

(wedding in Japanese uses white, while in Chinese is red.) 1

Colour was important in Hindu science and religion. For example, the spirit of red cloth, or redness itself, could combine with a person’s moral substance and transform it, such that a “red man” might be a sorcerer. Soldiers wore red turbans in battle, women wore red clothes and reddened their hands and hair during

marriage or fertility festivals. Influenced by soldiers of the East India Company’s ‘red coats’, Indian rulers in the eighteenth century adopted scarlet English broadcloth to make their own armies more impressive. The ‘red coats’ were appropriate to the tra- ditional colour-coding of the Indian warrior classes, and the use of red serge spread from Nawab of Awadh’s 60,000 man army to those of his competitors and others. 2

Cultures and Meanings:

• Australian Aboriginals: Land, earth
• Celtic: Death, afterlife
• China: Good luck, celebration, summoning
• Cherokees: Success, triumph. Represents the East.
• Hebrew: Sacrifice, sin
• India: Purity
• South Africa: Color of mourning
• Russia: Bolsheviks and Communism
• Eastern: Worn by brides, happiness and prosperity
• Western: Excitement, danger, love, passion, stop, Christmas (with green), Valentine's Day
• Feng Shui: Yang, fire, good luck, money, respect, recognition, vitality
• Psychology: Stimulates brain wave activity, increases heart rate, increases blood pressure
• Roses: Love, respect - red and yellow together means

gaiety, joviality
• Stained Glass (Dante): Divine love, the Holy Spirit, courage, self-sacrifice, martyrdom. A warm, active color. 3


Red bibs, robes, scarfs, and caps are related to certain deities:

Monkey. Sannou Gongen. Expels Demons of Sickness; Deity of Fertility

Fox (Kitsune) is the
messenger of Oinari (Inari), Deity of Rice Harvest

Bindorabaradaja (J); Also called Binzuru (J). Pindola Bharadraja (Skt). Binzuru; Healer; Most Revered Arhat in Japan

Koyasu Kannon - The Child-Giving Bosatsu, Goddess of Mercy

Jizo and Koyasu Jizo - Patron of Children, Giver of Children

Daruma, Zen Patriarch, Protector Agains Illness, Bringer of Good Luck

Shishi Lion Dogs Guard the Gates to Shinto Shrines

The Nio Kings Guard the Gates to Buddhist Temples 4

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01 October 2007

the chinese divan japonais

Divan Japonais

LAUTREC'S stroke of genius as a poster designer was to bring to the task the bold coloring and flat unmodelled forms of Japanese color woodcuts -- and the idea is nowhere more apposite than in this image advertising the Divan Japonais.

This was a Montmartre cabaret decorated in a fashionably Asian style [ironically, chinese!]. Lautrec shows the dancer Jane Avril and the critic Edouard Dujardin watching a performance by Yvette Guilbert, the famous singer, who is recognizable by her black gloves. All three were friends of the artist.

Avril is elegantly composed, chicly dressed, and with- drawn. Her cultivated tastes and interest in art and literature place her comfortably in the company of the intel- lectual Dujardin. Distractedly touching his cane to chin, he is interrupted in mid- thought by Jane's shapely silhouette. As usual, Lautrec focused on the dramas enacted

by the audience, and here perfectly captures the ambivalence of the pair's feigned interest in the performance and their private, con- flicting thoughts hovering just below the surface of social refinement.

Stylistically, Lautrec looked to sources in Japanese prints: the use of diagonals, compartmentalized color, curvilinear silhouettes, and the flattening of space.

[T]he presence of Dujardin makes reference to his writings on abstraction in Japanese art. Dujardin's writings summarized the principles of Lautrec's art, and Lautrec's poster gives a pictorial synopsis of both the critic's views and the

concerns of avant-garde painting. Viewed in this way, Divan Japonais poses itself as a provo- cative brain- teaser, full of cryptic "signs" and not-too-serious references to the intellectualism of modern art that percolated at the café tables and was poured out in the journals.

as happened with many of the cafes and cabarets of montmartre, divan japonais eventually became a strip club, and, finally, a movie theater.

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