japonisme: no fish swims a straight line

29 March 2009

no fish swims a straight line

so i am sitting minding my own business reading my email, and suddenly an announcement brings this: a rug. i study the website where it's featured. i know this print. it's by candace wheeler. candace wheeler is, however, mentioned nowhere.

so my first thought is of jr burrows & company, where i have seen the gorgeous lace curtain of this design for many years. i was fortunate enough to find mr burrows himself, a most fascinating fellow. with his help i was able to pinpoint his source: a portier (curtain hung over a doorway) designed by wheeler, and currently in the collection of the incredible mark twain house.

he further pointed me to a photo of the textile itself, reverse-printed on denim (a very common practice) and embroidered with silk, in a book i already had (the art that is life). as you can see, it's quite amazing. though it's not known the original place- ment of the piece, we do know that candace whee- ler, as part of the assoc- iated artists, an interior decorating firm assembled by louis comfort tiffany, is credited with its design.

to my eyes, however, it looks enough japanese to have been at the very least inspired but more likely directly copied from a japanese design.

i asked mr burrows if he had any idea of the source and he didn't. i then called the rug company; they had the attribution of the associated artists but not wheeler, and they had no idea of any japanese source.

so i started hunting. i thought first katagami -- it easily looks like something that began as a stencil, and in fact it did start as a stencil in candace wheeler's hands. i also thought maybe lacquer, with its intricate inlays. but i came up zero on all accounts.

i could find nothing that was exact, though many many samples of things that were obviously from the same culture.

maybe candace wheeler was just that astonishing.

p.s. mr burrows told me some things that just blew my ears out of the water (or something). in wholly unexpected ways (to me) he has added a surprising new development to the fenollosa/dow story. stay tuned.

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Blogger amatamari said...

Very interesting and beautiful pictures!


29 March, 2009 22:10  
Blogger John hopper said...

It does look very reminicsent of a Japanese print, perhaps it was 're-imagined' or made up from a number of different sources by Wheeler or another member of the Associated Artists, or even from a Tiffany source.

It does seem too specific to be dismissed as a stock Japanese design, like the many Indian and Chinese 'inspired' textile design work that was produced in Europe and North America.

Perhaps we will never know for sure where this design really came from and how it originated. Ah, the ambiguity of textile design!

30 March, 2009 09:00  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

amatamari -- thank you so much for your comment! i'm so glad it pleased you.

30 March, 2009 09:10  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

john-- thank you so much for your comment!

isn't it intriguing! and you know i'll be on the lookout for the rest of my life! (and i wouldn't be too surprised it you weren't as well ;^)

30 March, 2009 09:11  
Blogger namastenancy said...

What a gorgeous set of images - I imagine that the original artist must have been inspired by Japanese wood art, thereby following in a long and honorable tradition. I'm fascinated by the last image - the one of the two fishes. Where did that come from?

30 March, 2009 16:46  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

interesting that you should say that, nancy, because if i recall correctly, that bottom image is from a book of sample images for woodcarving, though it quickly became used for many other uses, east and west.

it's by Ôoka Shunboku (and if you click on his label you'll see a lot more). in general, if i know the artist's name, it's on the image; if you hold your cursor over the image, the name appears on the very bottom of your screen (the frame). if you click on the image, you'll see the name on the top of the frame.

30 March, 2009 17:04  
Anonymous Chris Sobotowski said...

We at Landry & Arcari Oriental Rugs in Salem, Massachusetts, produce the rug shown above. We loved this design and wove rugs in Nepal based upon it. We have received much favorable response to this wool and silk rug

We apologize that we did not know know enough about the source to credit Candace Wallace. We have now corrected this oversight on our website.

Thank you for enlightening us.

31 March, 2009 09:43  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

chris! i'm so impressed!, and most happy to add in my 2¢

i promise, if i ever learn the original original source (besides nature, that is) i will let you know.

thank you so much.

31 March, 2009 10:37  
Blogger Roxana said...

I am totally bown away by all these fabulous fishes!!!!

03 April, 2009 03:36  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

danke, roxy! me too; i felt very drawn in to the feel of all of these.

03 April, 2009 07:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one of the 2 carp's in the book who did that as i need to know for my College work, im intrested in it and would like to know more about the artist.
i love old work, i was drawn to it . . .

15 April, 2009 07:20  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

that one's by Ôoka Shunboku. if you do a search for his name on my blog you'll find more information.

15 April, 2009 11:24  

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