japonisme: before 1600

03 November 2008

before 1600

last time we discussed anything, we discussed the kimono in vermeer's paintings, and how the dutch bumped into japan in 1600 and were allowed to stay. (click image above to see the whole thing)

this has actually sent me into days of research into eras about which i know nothing. i must admit it's interesting watching time telescope when seen through an art history lens.

the reason i've felt the need to go in this direction is the assertion, which i've read in numerous places now, that the art of the landscape in japan bloomed due to exposure to dutch landscapes after that fateful moment in 1600.


i don't see it; in fact i'd say the reverse is true, if anything. still, it's been surprising looking at what was being done when. i hope you think so too. to start i'll illustrate what was being done in japan and europe before 1600.

"The Dutch were savvy: They didn't try to bring culture or religion to Japan, only business. But it got in anyway. That island filled with strange-looking, wide-eyed, long-nosed, curly-haired, tobacco-smoking, telescope-toting Dutch beckoned. The Japanese developed a craze for all things Dutch, called hollandisme, the counterpart of European japonisme.

"At the same time, Western art's foundations—shading, the frame, three-dimensional perspective—crept into Japan to create a magnificently mongrel strain of Japanese art, from paintings, ceramics, and prints (including the great printmaker Hokusai, represented in this show) to lacquerware, tourist tchotchkes, and "peep-show boxes" set out on the streets." 1

"In Holland in the late 1500s, artists such as Claes Jansz Visscher and Willem Buytewech developed landscape art, which focused on topographically-correct landscape representation." 2

"The Dutch engraver Lucas van Leyden (1494–1533), greatly influenced by Dürer and by the classical style of his Italian contemporaries, gently depicted Dutch landscape and interior scenes." 3

"Sixteenth century Flemish landscape began with Joachim Patinir and lasts over a hundred years and ends with the refined Jan Breughel the Elder. His father, Pieter Breughel the Elder, or Peasant Breughel (for his portrayals of that life) was considered the greatest of Flemish painters of the period with his combination of Italian maniera or style and Netherlands realism. Hunters in the Snow, 1565 (Oil on wood) is believed to be December or January from a series of the Months." 4

"In his work Oranda kiko (Travels in Holland), Ryotaro Shiba, a popular Japanese historical novelist who passed away in 1996, wrote, 'If Japanese society, which had been isolated from the rest of the world, was a solitary black box, Nagasaki was like a pinhole, and Holland was the faint ray of light shining in.' He also wrote, 'It is one of the miracles in the history of civilization, even when taking into account the curiosity of the Japanese, that the dozen or so Dutch people confined to the island of Dejima in Nagasaki exerted an influence on a society with a population of over 20 million'. " 5

"While tea drinking had been brought to Japan from China in earlier centuries, in the fifteenth century, a small coterie of highly cultivated men, influenced by Zen ideals, developed the basic principles of the tea (chanoyu) aesthetic.

"At its highest level, chanoyu involves an appreciation of garden design, architecture, interior design, calligraphy, painting, flower arranging, the decorative arts, and the preparation and service of food. These same enthusiastic patrons of the tea ceremony also lavished support on renga (linked-verse poetry) and No dance-drama, a subtle, slow-moving stage performance featuring masked and elaborately costumed actors." 6

"The foremost artists of the Muromachi period are the priest-painters Shūbun and Sesshū. Shūbun, a monk at the Kyōto temple of Shokoku-ji, has created in the his mid-15th century paintings a realistic landscape with deep recession into space. Sesshū, unlike most artists of the period, was able to journey to China and study Chinese painting at its source. The Long Handscroll (Mori Collection, Yamaguchi) [above] is one of Sesshū’s most accomplished works, depicting a continuing landscape through the four seasons.

"Because of secular ventures and trading missions to China organized by Zen temples, many Chinese paintings and objects of art were imported into Japan and profoundly influenced Japanese artists working for Zen temples and the shogunate. Not only did these imports change the subject matter of painting, but they also modified the use of color; the bright colors of Yamato-e yielded to the monochromes of painting in the Chinese manner.

"Typical of early Muromachi painting is a depiction by the priest-painter Kao (active early 15th century) of the legendary monk Kensu (Hsien-tzu in Chinese) at the moment he achieved enlightenment. This type of painting was executed with quick brush strokes and a minimum of detail. Catching a Catfish with a Gourd (early 15th century, Taizō-in, Myōshin-ji, Kyōto), by the priest-painter Josetsu (active about 1400), marks a turning point in Muromachi painting. Executed originally for a low-standing screen, it has been remounted as a hanging scroll with inscriptions by contemporary figures above, one of which refers to the painting as being in the 'new style.' In the foreground a man is depicted on the bank of a stream holding a small gourd and looking at a large slithery catfish. Mist fills the middle ground, and the background mountains appear to be far in the distance. It is generally assumed that the 'new style' of the painting, executed about 1413, refers to a more Chinese sense of deep space within the picture plane." 7

next we'll look at the years just after 1600.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

wt does the quote "It is one of the miracles in the history of civilization, even when taking into account the curiosity of the Japanese, that the dozen or so Dutch people 'confined' to the island of Dejima in Nagasaki exerted an influence on a society with a population of over 20 million." exactly mean

23 November, 2008 08:57  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

it means: "like isn't it so way cool that such a small drop of dye can color such a reeeeely big garment."

as has been pretty much the subject of this whole series. and of course the reverse was also true as it too, at that time, was also such a wee bit of impact having such a large impact.

23 November, 2008 12:05  

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