japonisme: 2/10/08 - 2/17/08

14 February 2008

klimt is cool

in the last post we looked at anna sui's wiener werkstatte- inspired fall/ winter 2008 collection with its strong klimt influence.

then i sort of accidentally began to realize that she was not the only one!

john galliano for dior, in his couture collection shown in paris in late january, the links to klimt are even more unmistakable.

some of the galliano gowns can almost be traced to specific klimt paintings.

but it does not stop with these two designers. though i couldn't see it (apparently using gold this season is enough for someone to write that your collection was inspired by klimt). in mexico, Jose Eduardo Trevino and Mauricio Ibinarriaga were credited thusly. and in new york, Proenza Schouler, and Erin Fetherston. like i said, i couldn't see it.

oscar de la renta's col- lection also was suppos- edly inspired by klimt. i can sorta see it. why, you might wonder, is klimt suddenly so hot? it suddenly struck me last night -- i think it's incontrovertible, despite the fact that i'm the only one i could find who is saying it.

klimt's painting of adele bloch- bauer caused more head- lines in the art world than anything else in 2007 -- and it was a really great story. that and the neue gallery's exhibition of that painting and other klimts was inspiration enough for anyone (even rami from project runway).
just as the influx of japanese artwork was enough inspiration for klimt some long generations ago.

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12 February 2008

sui generis

anna sui lists among her favorite artists George LePape, Christian Berard, Aubrey Beardsley, John William Water- house, and Edward Burne-Jones, and Paul Poiret among her favorite designers. 1

to my eyes, her fall/winter 2008 collection owes even more to the designers of the wiener werkstatte. this may not be surprising, given poiret's inspirations.

[In] May 1903, Koloman Moser and Josef Hoff- mann, with funds supplied by Fritz Waern- dorfer, Hoff- mann's patron, and the advice of Charles Rennie Mackin- tosh -- founded the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) for "the promotion of the economic interests of its members by training and educating them in handicraft, by the manufacture of craft objects of all sorts in accordance with artistic designs drawn up by Guild members, by the erection of workshops and by the sale of the goods produced."

These artists wanted to institute a par- ticularly Viennese style and to produce ensembles in which all elements would reflect the same aesthetic principles. They looked back to the Biedermeier period of the early nineteenth century as the last great era of genuine Viennese design. The artists of the Wiener Werkstätte regarded the tradition of handcraftsmanship as basic. Machines were used, but the artist maintained complete control over what was produced. Wiener Werkstätte textile and fashion divisions were opened in 1910, and Paris couturier Paul Poiret was among the first to visit them.

Critics of French decorative arts urged artists to learn from the effectiveness of the German and Austrian workshops in presenting designs in a single overarching national style. Ironically, French attitudes toward luxury and quality seemed to be part of the problem. French artists, instead of joining to form workshops to produce practical, well-designed objects for the middle class as in Germany and Austria, worked in isolation as fine artists making handcrafted individual pieces aimed at the aristocratic luxury market.

French designers decided to band together to form the Société des Artistes Décorateurs in 1901. Artists in many media took part in its exhi- bitions. Jacques Doucet, Jeanne Paquin, Paul Poiret, Sonia Delaunay, and the American Mainbocher represented fashion over the years, while Émile Jacques Ruhlmann and Louis Süe, among many others, produced ideas for textiles because of their commitment to the decorative arts. This gave designers more visibility through annual exhibitions, but the French still could not agree on a central design philosophy. The debate raged throughout the first decade of the century. What style would be exclusively French and exclusively modern and could compete in the marketplace with industrial creations?

Couturier Paul Poiret, who had been considering these issues even as he looked back to the Empire period for his influential straight loose gowns of 1907, was also acting to develop a new French style in textile design. By 1909, he had already visited Germany, where he showed his collections to great acclaim. There he purchased a group of German and Eastern European decorative arts, which he regarded as akin, in their "primitive" simplicity and vigor, to all of the various artistic expressions mani- fested by the Ballets Russes, founded by Serge Diaghilev with painter Léon Bakst and choreographer Michel Fokine and then the toast of Paris.

In Vienna, Poiret had been captivated by the Wiener Werkstätte with its cooperative spirit among architects (Josef Hoffmann), decorative artists (Dagobert Pêche, Koloman Moser), and painters (Gustav Klimt, whose companion, Emilie Flöge was herself a fashion designer with a salon in Vienna).

In Germany and Austria, Poiret encountered the new modern styles on their own ground. He purchased textiles. He went to every decorative arts exhibition possible,

meeting Hermann Muthesius, the Prussian architect and critic; designer Bruno Paul; and Gustav Klimt. He wandered the streets looking at new buildings and visited every recently completed interior to which he could gain admittance.

He was especially struck by the products of the Wiener Werk- stätte, and on his return to Paris he decided to adopt the Viennese workshop concept and to strive for the freedom and spontaneity he had observed in both French and Eastern European folk art. Poiret rejected the idea of employing highly trained artists or craftsmen. Thinking of the peasants who had made beautiful objects without any formal art education, he decided to experiment with new designs by untrained artists free of what he called "false principles" learned in school. 2

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11 February 2008

japanese botanicals in the american midwest

holding this book in my hands, on an almost spring afternoon out in my yard, i was moved to the edge of breathlessness. not only is there a complete catalogue of edna boies hopkins' wondrous prints, beautifully reproduced, but in addition a truly relevent and meaningful narraitive. too often, as you've heard me complain, the japanese roots of the work we see is ignored. here it is covered comprehensively, and carefully.

chronicled are boies's studies with arthur wesley dow, and dow's involvement with japanese prints is discussed intelligently.

in 1908, 'mrs. hopkins' (she was now married) was discussed in depth in the bibliophile, a magazine and review for the collector, student, and general reader. while it neglects dow, it offers much. (the prints mentioned are in the new book.)

VERY numerous and various have been the vicissitudes of the wood-cut. Now in the enjoyment of a wide and flagrant popularity, now in the brief shadow of a passing disfavour to-day, its facile possibilities are more than ever appreciated.

The colour- prints of Mrs. Edna Boies Hopkins, described in this article — as will be seen from the examples given — are of an exceedingly interesting nature. Some few years ago when teaching at the Veltin School, New York, and under the stimulus of the talented principal, Mrs. Sprague-Smith, Mrs. Hopkins discovered the need of flower studies which should have something of the simple charm and direct appeal of the flowers themselves.

Such studies apparently were not to be found — they were therefore to be attempted. It seemed to Mrs. Hopkins, who had been for some years a student of Japanese art, that the methods of the wood-engravers of Japan was the one most suitable ; and a visit to Japan and practical experience of those methods confirmed this opinion. Setting aside the considerable mass of experimental work — in* itself no slight achievement—the series of ten flower studies, of which the four reproductions here given are typical, was Mrs. Hopkins' first work in this manner.

It will be noted that the motif is generally quite simple — a spray of leaf and blossom — but so disposed as to suggest at first sight the whole character and habit of the plant. To give this realism, so utterly given in the delightful flower studies of Keibun, Yasukuni and Utamaro, Mrs. Hopkins has followed largely the technique and manner of the great Japanese artists. The tools used are the half-dozen dainty little knife-chisels used by the Japanese engravers, the wood is cherry cut grain lengthwise, the brushes also are Japanese except one strange tool which is used for broad surfaces and bears an uncanny resemblance to a tooth-brush.

The prints themselves which are on fairly stout Japanese paper are taken off the blocks by rubbing with the sensitive bamboo-covered tampon — a separate block being used for each colour in addition in some rare cases to an outline key block. The register is the simple but effective Japanese method. No two prints are alike, the slightest variation in the printing giving an individuality to each impression. Indeed, one of the great charms of the process is the element of surprise in each print as it is taken off. That Mrs. Hopkins has seized the individuality of her subjects is apparent at a glance, but the manner of treatment has contributed much to the success gained.

For instance, in the large green leaves of the convolvulus (or to give it its charming trivial name in America — Morning Glory), the long vertical grain of the wood gives a most happy effect. This plate is printed without back-ground and is an excellent example of simple and frank treatment.

Perhaps the most successful print — it is indeed quite a master-piece in its own manner — is the rendering of the Phlox, in which a wonderfully complete effect is gained by reserved and subtle artistry. The great value of repression could hardly be better proven than in this extremely sensitive print, the white mass of the flowers standing out most convincingly against the dull silken sheen of the back-ground.

The prints of the bramble and the fuchsia are, each in its own way, natural and entirely decorative ; and are less interesting than the others in subject rather than in treatment. The "Petunia" print which Mrs. Hopkins has designed expressly for "The Bibliophile," though necessarily of a much smaller and simpler type than the other examples illustrated, has, nevertheless, in the decorative massing of the leafage and the clever suggestion of the flower's flaccid limpness some of the distinguishing qualities of the larger studies.

Of each of the larger flower studies so far dealt with there have been printed fifty examples, and no more will be done. Mrs. Hopkins in designing the subjects, cutting the blocks, and pulling the proofs, is entirely responsible for the prints. A second series of ten flowers has now been made, and it is the intention of Mrs. Hopkins to next produce a complete series of studies of the various fruit-tree blossoms, such as the plum, cherry and apple.

How useful such a series would be to the student goes without saying, and it is perhaps to be regretted that the prints noted in this article have not been available for art school purposes, but while the collector is abroad in the land the needs of others must bide. 1

after this piece was written, hopkins' work evolved, of course. the trumpet flower image here is an example of her more art deco style. sadly, many repositories of her work online come up with 'not yet digitalized.' much hope hangs on that 'yet.' happily though there is now a beautifully published record of her work. you have a few weeks left to see the show (see sidebar); and you have a little time too to hold it in your hands.

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