japonisme: 11/2/08 - 11/9/08

05 November 2008

the 17th century

we have seen what landscape painting looked like in japan and the netherlands before 1600, when the two met, so now we shall look at the 17th century's products, and question who influenced whom.

a booklet i have from the national gallery of art reads, "The Dutch school of painting, arising in the early seventeenth century and already in decline by its end, is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of art.

"Unusual, first of all, is the abrupt- ness with which it appears; suddenly, about 1620, there is a Dutch school, fully-developed, a school which has its origins in sixteenth-century Netherlandsish painting to be sure, but which is quite unexpectedly original.

"Unusual, too, is the extraordinary number of great artists who worked in such a small country during so short a period of time. Finally, the solid excellence of their painting is remarkable and what might be called the homogeneity of their view of life and their interpretation of it, the consistent way in which they express their land and its people.

"They are, in fact, so Dutch! They stand apart from the artists of the other schools of seventeenth-century painting in Europe, even that of the Spanish Netherlands, just to the south. Dutch painting of the great age reveals the period and place of its origin in every passage of paint as legibly as they may be read in the label on the picture frame." 1

now we also read, "Folding screens called the Namban-byobu were produced in great number by artists of the Kano School from the end of the sixteenth through the seventeenth century. These screens were Japanese in style and technique.

"On the other hand, Church taught Western art techniques for the production of icons and other works of religious art which were necessary for the propagation of Christianity.

"But the Western-style of expression seen in the Edo period, the adoption of a realistic style of expression employing methods of perspective and shading, is in a different category from Namban-byobu and those religious works." 2

we read, "some suggest that "In the late 1620s van Goyen shifted to simpler motifs -- a few cottages along a village road or in the dunes, like in this painting -- and he achieved unification and depth by a leading diagonal and by a tonal treatment that subdues the local color and is expressive of atmospheric life." 3

this sounds to my ears like the very description of japanese art.

i'm very curious about your impression to these; did the japanese influence the dutch as much as the dutch influenced the japanese?

we may get more clues as we progress further into the edo period, and the beginnings of ukiyo-e. the dutch created everything we've defined as japanese? let's see what you think.

i want you to understand that i really do not like any of this at all. it throws so much of what i think i know into question. hokusai, hiroshige, so not japanese-y? stay tuned.

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04 November 2008


The artists featured in this video are Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Patti Austin, Bernie K., Daryl Coley, Commissioned, Andraé Crouch, Sandra Crouch, Clifton Davis, Charles Dutton, Kim Fields, Larnelle Harris, Edwin Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins, Linda Hopkins, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Lizz Lee, Dawnn Lewis, Babbie Mason, Johnny Mathis, Marilyn McCoo, Stephanie Mills, Jeffrey Osborne, David Pack, Phylicia Rashad, Joe Sample, Richard Smallwood, Sounds Of Blackness, Take 6, Darryl Tookes, Mervyn Warren, Thomas Whitfield, Vanessa Williams, Chris Willis, Mike E., Kim Fleming, Angela Wright, and Gayle Mayes

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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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