japonisme: 1/11/09 - 1/18/09

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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Report: Federal Science and the Public Good

Report: Federal Science and the Public Good

A strong and sustained U.S. investment in independent science has brought the nation significant economic progress, science-based public policy, and unequaled global scientific leadership. As the country faces extraordinary challenges in the coming years, a robust federal scientific workforce and public trust in government decision making are even more critical.

The federal government runs on vast amounts of information, and makes policy decisions every day that affect the health and well-being of all Americans. Although science is rarely the only factor driving public policy, scientific input should always be weighed from an impartial perspective. Unfortunately, numerous independent investigations have documented a pattern of suppression, manipulation, and distortion of federal science before it enters the policy process. Under the outgoing George W. Bush administration, political interference in science has indeed become pervasive.

Furthermore, recent changes in the structure of the federal government impair the ability of federal scientists to fulfill their responsibility to serve their agencies and the public interest. Federal scientists find themselves under growing surveillance and control. Administration officials have curtailed public access to scientific information, and subtle systemic changes have sidelined scientists and advisory committees that previously helped inform the policy-making process. In too many cases, these officials have used tainted science to justify misguided policies.

The consequences of these practices are profound. Policy makers cannot make informed decisions without access to the best available scientific information. Even worse, the misuse of science threatens our nation’s ability to respond to increasingly complex public health, environmental, and security challenges. Such interference significantly decreases the effectiveness of federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency. It risks demoralizing the federal scientific workforce and raises the possibility of lasting harm to the federal scientific enterprise. And it makes our government less accountable to the citizens it is supposed to serve.

President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress should act immediately to halt these abuses and implement reforms and safeguards to prevent them from recurring.

In this report we provide detailed recommendations for restoring scientific integrity to federal policy making. These reforms include enacting whistle-blower protections for government scientists and researchers, increasing government transparency, reforming the regulatory process to protect independent science, improving scientific advice to the government, and strengthening monitoring and enforcement. Improving the way that science informs the decision-making process will require strong leadership at the top of the executive branch, as well as the persistent and energetic engagement of Congress, the scientific community, and the public.

Chapter 1 of this report outlines our detailed recommendations to President-elect Obama and the 111th Congress for restoring scientific integrity to federal policy making. Chapter 2 of this report briefly explores the ways that the George W. Bush administration directly misused science during his tenure. Chapter 3 delves into the systemic changes that have made it more difficult for federal scientists to serve the public interest.

This report is intended to be illustrative, not exhaustive. Improving the way that science informs the decision-making process will require the persistent and energetic engagement of Congress, the executive branch, the scientific community, and the public.

Last Revised: 12/16/08


16 January 2009

the strange mr. strange

edward fairbrother strange made his living writing articles and books about design: lettering, bookbinding, lace, etc. his tone was often one of arch dissatisfaction and resentment that no longer were the excellent standards of the past being upheld.

we've met him already, listening to him rail against the degenerate work of seitei watanabe, and i promised you you'd hear more. after railing generally against american book design, he says:

to turn to the consideration of some particular cases, one is compelled to reiterate a somewhat well-worn story, that of the wide-spread and curious influence of aubrey beardsley. the cover designs by bertram g goodhue are often full of it--
beardsley's earlier manner of the morte d'arthur;

but of all beardsley's disciples the one who has more closely approached to him in method is will h bradley. the binding of the romance of zion castle is a typical example of this somewhat common tendency. here we have another version of the 'avenue poster' type of decoration;

with, however, not a tithe of the marvellous success of the latter in indication form and drapery by judiciously balance flat masses. in mr bradley's design the gold is over-done, and the hard boundary lines to which it gives rise spoil the effect of the decidedly clever distribution of the upper part of the cover.

the same artist's lyrics of earth wants balance; the serpentine line is rather too heavy, and not very gracefully distributed, although the tree is well rendered and just in its proper place.

a very pleasant treatment of a conventional landscape is that adopted by mr louis rhead, in meadow grass. the use of a picture pure and simple for a cover, instead of some arrangement of ornament, is a new and dangerous device; and it requires powers of no uncommon order to secure for it the success obtained by mr rhead in this instance.

a book-cover has been made by margaret armstrong for love-letters of a musician. it is good in color, the rare subordination of the two lines of floral diaper giving a pleasing effect, but the head of st cecelia, done on an inlay of vellum in slight relief, and the border gold which surrounds it, seem rather forced and over-wrought.

the same artist has produced an effective composition of poppies and pipe-stems, in crimson, light green and gold, on coarse white canvas, for washington irving's rip van winkle.

this is, one would imagine, a good 'saleable' cover, though, from the critical point of view it must not be too closely considered, and the lettering cries aloud for condemnation.

(mr strange was by no means alone in his pouts; snipping, snapping and sniping were the trade of the day in the large and gor- geously produced periodicals covering the art world. so what else is new?)

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14 January 2009



'Never shall a young man,

Thrown into despair

By those great honey-coloured

Ramparts at your ear,

Love you for yourself alone

And not your yellow hair.'

'But I can get a hair-dye

And set such colour there,

Brown, or black, or carrot,

That young men in despair

May love me for myself alone

And not my yellow hair.'

'I heard an old religious man

But yesternight declare

That he had found a text to prove

That only God, my dear,

Could love you for yourself alone

And not your yellow hair.'

WB Yeats

*what artists like seitei watanabe gave us was the way to color that sings

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11 January 2009

three man's opinion

Colour-printing in Japan has lost its individuality. It is no longer the peculiar art of the lower orders, and tends more and more to sink to the level of a mere process of reproduction.

To this use it has been put in some notable modern instances the painter, Watanabe Seitei, for example, has had a number of sketches beautifully reproduced by its means but they have nothing in common with the old nishikiye [woodblock prints] and might as well have been drawn for chromo-lithography, or the three-colour process.

Perhaps this is the most fitting place for the author to venture on a brief appeal to Japanese artists to avoid imitations of European work. Of late years some among them have seen fit, naturally enough, perhaps, to try their hands at the Western methods of painting; and Japanese Impressionists, Japanese of the Barbizon school, Japanese of the Art Nouveau, and of the wilder sects of Southern Germany, have come again to their own land with pride and misunderstanding, bearing with them sheaves of pictures curiously wrought in the fashions of the masters of their choice.

Others have tried to blend the Eastern and Western arts, so radically and immovably opposite. Always the result is failure. It could not be otherwise. Their art has a noble history and a place supreme in the love and literature of their country. In the name of all that is beautiful let them keep it there, and not adulterate and defile it with the scraps and off-scourings of the alien.
Edward F. Strange 1906

We see in Watanabe Seitei that art has been vulgarised. The coloured print has become chiefly a child's toy. Artists can no longer afford to superintend the technical processes of its production, and cheap flaring, violent pigments imported from abroad have taken the place of the delicate, rich, and costly colours of old Japan.

Frank Brinkley 1902

The modern Japan found a satisfactory expression of art in Seitei Watanabe. The imagi- nation of Japan has been growing wider and wider under the influence of Western art. You will find here and there in Watanabe the sure trace of a certain classic school; a graceful solitariness, like that of Tosa; a far away imaginativeness, like that of Kano; the memory, as it were, of an old lover, which will not be put aside.

Again, in Wata- nabe, the old conven- tion- alism turns delight- fully into a hint of dignity, and unin- telli- gible symbolism into deep poetry. This artist would keep the essence of each school for his own use. Basho Matsuo, the great Japanese poet, once compared the poets and artists to a beggar's bag, because they gather whatever beauty and truth they may, from anything. Seitei Watanabe used to laugh at the artists of particular schools. He declared that he did not belong to any one.

Yone Noguchi 1903

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