japonisme: japanese impressionism

17 January 2009

japanese impressionism

we have discussed the influence of the japanese prints in the birth of impressionism; impressionism itself returned the favor. in the fields of art, music, and writing, as in the west, the face of impressionism smiled.

some of the artists lived and or studied in paris, and then came back to japan to teach. some just knew someone who knew someone....

a brief excerpt from what is considered 'japanese impressionism' in a short tale:

He was not to do anything in bad taste, the woman of the inn warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger into the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything else of that sort.

There were this room, some four yards square, and the one next to it, but apparently no other rooms upstairs; and, since the downstairs seemed too restricted for guest rooms, the place could scarcely be called an inn at all. Probably because its secret allowed none, there was no sign at the gate.

All was silence. Admitted through the locked gate, old Eguchi had seen only the woman to whom he was now talking. It was his first visit. He did not know whether she was the proprietress or a maid. It seemed best not to ask.

A small woman perhaps in her mid-forties, she had a youthful voice, and it was as if she had especially cultivated a calm, steady manner. The thin lips scarcely parted as she spoke. She did not often look at Eguchi. There was something in the dark eyes that lowered his defenses, and she seemed quite at ease herself. She made tea from the iron kettle on the bronze brazier. The tea leaves and the quality of the brewing were astonishingly good, for the place and the occasion--to put old Eguchi more at ease.

In the alcove hung a painting by Kawai Gyokudo, probably a reproduction, of a mountain village warm with autumn leaves. Nothing suggested that the room had unusual secrets.

"And please don't try to wake her. Not that you could, whatever you did. She's sound asleep and knows nothing." The woman said it again: "She'll sleep on and on and know nothing at all, from start to finish. Not even who's been with her. You needn't worry."

Eguchi said nothing of the doubts that were coming over him.

"She's a very pretty girl. I only take guests I know I can trust."

As Eguchi looked away his eye fell to his wrist watch.

"What time is it?"

"A quarter to eleven."

"I should think so. Old gentlemen like to go to bed early and get up early. So whenever you're ready."

The woman got up and unlocked the door to the next room. She used her left hand. There was nothing remarkable about the act, but Eguchi held his breath as he watched her. She looked into the other room. She was no doubt used to looking through doorways, and there was nothing unusual about the back turned toward Eguchi. Yet it seemed strange. There was a large, strange bird on the knot of her obi. He did not know what species it might be. Why should such realistic eyes and feet have been put on a stylized bird? It was not that the bird was disquieting in itself, only that the design was bad; but if disquiet was to be tied to the woman's back, it was there in the bird. The ground was a pale yellow, almost white.

The next room seemed to be dimly lighted. The woman closed the door without locking it, and put the key on the table before Eguchi. There was nothing in her manner to suggest that she had inspected a secret room, nor was there in the tone of her voice.

"Here is the key. I hope you sleep well. If you have trouble getting to sleep, you will find some sleeping medicine by the pillow."

"Have you anything to drink?"

"I don't keep spirits."

"I can't even have a drink to put myself to sleep?"


"She's in the next room?"

"She's asleep, waiting for you."

2009 Kawabata Yasunari

from "House of the Sleeping Beauties"

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have really concentrated on the flow of influence from East to West (most books seem to as well)...cool to see the flow in the opposite direction. There was one painting here, I was sure it was Emile Nolde...but I was wrong. :)

ty for stopping by dA.

18 January, 2009 09:19  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

now i'm curious! which one??!

i find da a little confusing. does it send you email if there's a response to your comment?

18 January, 2009 13:44  
Blogger Diane Dehler said...

These are all lovely and exude a gentleness or inner peace. -Perhaps grace of the feminine. Be well, Lotus; I am glad that you are always here and admire your constancy.

18 January, 2009 22:00  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

maybe their work is where artists can find peace

19 January, 2009 09:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the work by Yorozu reminds me of Emile Nolde...& re dA- nope, no emails...

20 January, 2009 12:30  
Blogger John Hopper said...

That's really interesting! I had no idea that Impressionism, for example, went both ways. I wonder how many other movements, that took their inspiration from Japan, were then taken back to Japan in their altered European state, and how often did they go to and fro. Fascinating!

21 January, 2009 03:10  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

if you want to see a really good book about it there's a book i got in the late 80s called PARIS IN JAPAN. it has so many wonderful examples that i was unable to find online (yet)

to my eye sort of everything got 'japanized' after that point; cubism and 'abstract art' are just further stations down the road.

i really don't know beyond that.

21 January, 2009 11:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have some of my favourite artsists here - Odilon Redon especially - he's wonderful!

01 February, 2009 11:17  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i love him too. it's interesting to me to learn they were having these influences i never knew about.

01 February, 2009 11:41  
Blogger belvedere beads said...

i think, if some one forced me to take a stance, i would declare redon my favorite painter. and that particular painting is one that makes me tingle.

07 February, 2009 15:55  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

when i was still in high school i adored two painters: mark chagall and odilon redon. one remained in my heart, the other.... not so much.

07 February, 2009 17:06  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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