japonisme: by any other name

08 September 2008

by any other name

william merritt chase called them 'japanese umbrellas'; his tenth-street studio was known to always have some around.

kent seavey, of the heritage society of pacific grove, calls them that too. 1

in fact, pretty much everyone called them that, and most of them painted them too.

(the grandma of them all may be friseke's garden umbrella.)

everyone, that is, but the japanese.

in japan, the umbrellas were only minimally decorated. if at all. (except maybe in versions by westerners.)

they might be colored, but they were otherwise plain.

friseke painted them several more times, often, like this one, painted in giverny.

"Careful examination of the choices the artist Frederick Frieseke made when depicting women as subjects reveals information about the artist, these women and attitudes toward women during the early 20th century. Consider the women in Frieseke's painting as both subjects and symbols.

Why do you think Frederick Frieseke chose this setting for his painting? The work depicts his wife, Sarah O'Bryan, and a companion enjoying a bit of leisure time in the Frieseke's garden. Frieseke often painted his wife set within the confines of her lush garden or intimate bedroom. In these feminine spaces, Frieseke was able to concentrate on the decorative qualities of nature, as well as the human figure.

How did the artist convey a feminine feeling, beyond setting his female figures in a garden? Frieseke's repetition of rounded forms, such as the chair backs and umbrella, echoes the soft forms of the female figures. Additionally, the repeated use of patterns in the Asian designs on the umbrella and the background flowers, the female subject and the natural setting suggest Frieseke was aware of 19th-century Japanese prints, which bear many of the same characteristics and were very popular among French and American art collectors at the time." 2

and he clearly wasn't the only one. consider this beauty from jean's blog. i loved this piece so went off on research, and found a very interesting thing.

miller's was first, and is much better. i think jean found his best.

there are others, but i think i'll leave it at that. for now. in recreating a bit of this wondrous new east they instead created an illusion.

they may have been created in the east, but they were make for the west alone.

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Blogger willow said...

Oh, I loved this post! Years ago, I brought a beautiful Japanese umbrella back from Japan. Sadly, it now has a tear in the thin paper, but it is still almost as lovely closed as it is open.

Gorgeous pix!

08 September, 2008 14:16  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you willow! we should sometime compare japan notes; where did you go?

and yes, sad. we're back to discussing impermanence again.

my cousin is japanese and had a nearly roomsize purple and white umbrella on her livingroom ceiling, which i envied.

take a photo of yours and show me.

08 September, 2008 15:38  
Blogger curator said...

Umbrellas must be one of the most satisfying and effective compositional devices of all time!

09 September, 2008 07:36  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

what an interesting perspective, curator. your saying that somehow makes me think of calendars, in their repitition, i think.

i read yesterday that keeping off rain came late to the use of the parasol/umbrella in the west. shade, yes, but also flirting (or avoidance)! and for a long time it was only an upperclass thing.

09 September, 2008 08:46  
Blogger Margaret said...

I've always loved Japanese umbrellas--I had no idea that they were more minimally decorated in Japan, but it certainly makes sense. I love they way they've been used in these paintings.

09 September, 2008 13:22  
Blogger Roxana said...

oh lotus, this is so exquisite! these paintings are new to me, and breathtaking. and you know, umbrellas are one topic I used to 'fight' over with my Japanese friend - she (like many japanese women, except the young ones) uses an umbrella in summer to protect from the sun, they are quite paranoic about it. but I suppose it is part of there tradition also, of what is supposed to be 'feminin'. this is just my guess, I haven't researched it. anyway, I used to 'make fun' of her every time she took out her tiny umbrella (yes, no colours, but beautifully embroidered) and said that this was only to put on airs, but she insisted that no, it was very useful, actually indispensable :-)

09 September, 2008 14:16  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

yes, margaret, i love that too. it's almost like a shell, enclosing the scene in golden light.

it seems like we've taken kimono designs and put them on everything!

09 September, 2008 23:03  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

your comment makes me so happy roxy!

as usual, your comment is so interesting. first of all, i didn't know about the embroidery. it doesn't show in any of the prints i went over; i'll have to look for that.

and the adherence to the "old ways," yes. isn't that interesting. well, women's frailness was her most appealing aspect for a long long time, wasn't it? we're still fighting that now.

are you?

09 September, 2008 23:07  

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