japonisme: the new math

11 February 2009

the new math

we've already looked at dow's moment of epiphany, the realization that what he had been looking for was the book of hokusai prints right there in his hands. let's look a little closer:

dow has now met ernest fenollosa, and is studying with him at any possibility.

"In May, Fenollosa, with a certain flair he had for the dramatic, opened a door and showed Dow two magnificent screens by Okio. Dow looked at them in silence for a space and then exclaimed, 'Why can't I do that?' (The subject was a pine covered with snow.)

To this question Fenollosa replied, 'You can do it if you dare, but you don't dare.'

Dow instantly replied, 'I will dare!'

This pleased the Orientalist and he exclaimed, 'You will, you will, and I dare you to do it.'"

clearly, this was a moment of discovery for dow, of synthesis and excitement. he began seeing in a new way, one that, from his own perspective, returned to the basics in art, what all cultures had at some time done, the essential line, with everything extraneous removed.

the clarity of his vision was such that he went on to formulate, and to develop ways of teaching these insights to others, work that some say became more important than making art itself. he is credited for having changed the way art is regarded and taught in this country radically, and his methods were the staple of american art education for many years.

okay -- so we have a moment of person discovery, life-altering, piercing and pervasive. so.... um.... -- what about all these other guys??! was it worldwide epiphany-itis?

i went to the jung pages and apparently the descriptive phrase i wanted to use, 'collective unconscious,' doesn't actually mean what i have always taken it to mean, so that won't work, unless i am allowed to redefine (or expand its definitions) the concept to what i always thought it meant and what fits in rather well here, namely that there is some mysterious (until science figures it out) connection of every human's mind that rises and falls with the tide and explains how one idea can occur in many places at the same time.

spontaneous combustion?

wasn't this the stuff of impressionism, anyway? the release of detail in pursuit of truth?

artists throughout the west were paring down, simplifying, following ideas they had imbibed from the japanese prints; did each and every one of them feel themselves to be a solitary traveler?

it's such an interesting phenomenon-- i wish i knew the name for it.

when things change, we each want to name it, to own it, and to think we know the reason why.

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Blogger belvedere beads said...

when japonisme goes bad?

11 February, 2009 21:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really believe that these and other artists of the time came to the same point in their development naturally. They were influenced by the same stimuli. Years of producing and painting academic work and the exposure to Japanese art would bring them to the same conclusion at about the same time. Each was solitary, but the teaching of AWD was probably more far reaching than we know.

12 February, 2009 08:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Lotus, The print by William Rice is identified in my book "Arthur Wesley Dow and American Arts and Crafts" by Green and Poesch, pg.35, as by Pedro De Lemos.

12 February, 2009 08:32  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh thank you dorothy for saving my butt, er, reputation! of course you're right, and i knew that, and the image is labled correctly, and rice wasn't even a dow student either. agh.

as for your thoughtful comment, isn't that interesting? yes, i'm certainly getting that idea about dow. we're not done with him yet.

12 February, 2009 08:48  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

lucinda--thank you! that's so odd!

12 February, 2009 10:57  
Blogger Roland MacDonald said...

A very interesting post. Cultural waves(ripples)that strike me as similar to this idea of 'collective conciousness' seem to frequently occur amoung the art/animation/illustration bloggers. This strikes me as a condensed form of what you discussed here. The internet seems so infinitely large but just like a city it can also seem very small . . .

This isn't very well written. Apologies but the point stands I think

12 February, 2009 12:27  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

well, i'm glad you pointed that out, roland. if you hadn't i might never have noticed. ;^)

of course! neat to think of it online. for some reason i picture a great wall of china length of "the wave."

but i'm sure you're right! it seems generational? i guess the net's old enough for that now.

12 February, 2009 13:03  
Blogger Neil said...

Synchronicity is the word Jung used for the phenomenon of people having the same ideas/impulses/inspirations at the same time.

13 February, 2009 15:18  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

of course!!! neil -- thank you!

13 February, 2009 16:54  

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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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