japonisme: the travels of inspiration

04 October 2008

the travels of inspiration

one of the things morse brought back with him when he returned from japan was a notebook of kimono pattern designs from 1734.

it had been created by Ôoka Shunboku, who "was one of the first artists to expand painting techniques to a broader audience through publishing monochromatic block-printed books, painting manuals, and other handbooks." 1

the designs in this collection were ostensibly created for wood-carving, but they were charming enough that they were chosen for fabric design, metalwork, room-divider screens, and much else.

interestingly, it would appear that this volume's reach, both geographically and chronologically, was certainly broader than he'd likely ever imagined. enter arthur silver and the silver studio.

from photographs we have of his home, we see that
silver collected and displayed treasures from japan.
his company, the silver studio, produced thousands
of designs for everything from textiles
and wallpaper to silver and jewelry.

the silver studio was on retainer to arthur lazenby liberty's department store, liberty. they provided many of the items they produced to liberty's solely. both men were instrumental in introducing japanese goods, and styles, to the growing middle class. liberty was to england as bing was to france.
we know this book was brought to the west early in the days of japan's trade with the west. is it such a reach that a collector such as silver might have gotten his hands on a copy?

of course, since it was one of the first multi-copy publications coming out of japan, it's also possible that that many others saw it as well. seemingly inspired textile designs came out of northern england, france, and the wiener werkstatte as well.

fortunately, you don't have to take my word for it:

Japan and British Art Nouveau, 1880-1900

July 2009 - Feb 2010, Middlesex

An exhibition exploring the influence of Japanese motifs and techniques on British Art Nouveau, with particular reference to the design output of the Silver Studio. The West London-based Silver Studio was founded by Arthur Silver, who during the 1880s and 90s was heavily interested in and influenced by the art of Japan. The exhibition will feature many Japanese and Japanese-inspired objects from the Silver Studios collection, and explore ideas around cross-fertilisation and the way in which design influences were shared between two very different cultures. 2

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Blogger Roland MacDonald said...

Great post, Beautiful images. Eagerly anticipating this show. A long wait though. I saw an exhibiton of Japanesed flower prints and painting books atr SOAS a few years ago and still remember those amazing volumes.

05 October, 2008 03:00  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you roland! how i envy you the chance to see this in person (though i;'ma bit afraid thet were i to go i'd never leave!). i know it's a long way away, but if you go please let us know about it!

forgive me but what is SOAS?

05 October, 2008 08:23  
Blogger Tess Kincaid said...

This reminds me of that scene in the film The Age of Innocence" where Daniel Day-Lewis is looking through the book about Japan.

05 October, 2008 12:09  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

hmmm--don't remember that part--i'll have to watch it again--thanks.

05 October, 2008 12:59  
Blogger Karla said...

OK, I see what you were referring to on BibliOdyssey, but I was thinking of earlier than 1880s, more like when Arts & Crafts was in its really early days. Still doesn't mean I necessarily know what I'm talking about as I can't be an expert on everything, much as I'd like to be.

If you do get to London, you will want to move into Liberty's, I'll tell you that. I certainly wanted to. And all I could afford was a few notebooks and hankies.

05 October, 2008 18:54  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

honey--i'm afraid if i went to that *exhibit* i'd want to move in!

well, remember that the japanese stuff started coming in in the 50s and 60s, and the exhibitions that started all the uproar were in the mid 1860s (just as we warred) --the first time, iirc, there was a japanese exhibit, and it was an immense success.

i mean, even the roycroft stuff, you can see the long reach of japan if you compare the work with building in japan. work became itself, as form, rather than being a decorated thing. (though the aesthetic movement featured a great deal of japanese imagery)

i appreciate what you said, though--i'm so not a good debator, when i tried to explain my point of view, what had seemed so clear in my head lost a great deal of light on its way of becoming ascii.

05 October, 2008 19:18  
Blogger Karla said...

Roycroft is definitely Japanese-influenced.

My thoughts always lose something as I type. And that's even though I write better than I talk. I don't know why anyone ever thinks I might actually be articulate. Perhaps it's that I enunciate nicely.

05 October, 2008 19:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating post! Your blog is a golden mine.

06 October, 2008 02:19  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

merci beaucoup, lasourceauxbois. i really appreciate your saying that.

karla--this twisting & turning follow-up has been the most interesting of all. why do i think men would have handled it differently?

06 October, 2008 07:53  
Blogger Karla said...

Because men are usually brought up/socialized differently?

06 October, 2008 08:01  
Blogger lotusgreen said...


however i also wonder what part of "going in for the kill" is testosterone-based. wait. that wouldn't explain the women who do that too.

06 October, 2008 10:06  
Blogger Karla said...

I'm quite capable of going in for the kill (verbally). I just regard it as an unevolved, mostly undesirable part of my personality that shouldn't be encouraged. Other than in satire, political commentary, and such.

I doubt testosterone is seriously involved.

06 October, 2008 10:30  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i wonder when we'll ever know for sure....

06 October, 2008 12:13  
Blogger Roland MacDonald said...

SOAS is the School of Oriental and African Studies - University of London. Sounds right up your street. They put on some good shows.

07 October, 2008 12:50  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh yes--was it you that recommended that to me before? if so, thank you again.

12 October, 2008 08:39  

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