japonisme: koloman for all seasons: 1900 (the calendars)

07 March 2010

koloman for all seasons: 1900 (the calendars)

it can be said without exaggeration that japanese art and the japanese aesthetic made an impact upon virtually every turn-of-the-century artist, even if a direct link with specific japanese originals cannot always be identified. the japanese to interior design, decoration and the applied arts shaped the attitudes of european artist towards their work.

european painters and graphic designers were similarly influenced by japanese prints, adopting the luminosity of their bright colours, the pulsating rhythm of their lines and dots, the heightened expressiveness of their simplified outlines and their juxtaposition of decorative areas on the pictorial plane.

both vincent van gogh and william morris were great admirers of japanese prints. liberty began importing large consignments of goods from the far east from 1875 onwards.

charles rennie mackintosh was another who appreciated japanese art. it is clear, too, that vienna also came into close contact with japan.

at the risk of over- simplifi-cation, there were three main reasons why japanese art met with such an enthusiastic response in europe around 1900. firstly, industrial expansion in the 1870s had created new consumer wealth and given rise to a demand for exotic luxury items.

secondly, artists, craftsmen, designers and architects were hungry for fresh forms and motifs with which to replace the exhausted vocabulary of naturalism and history painting.

thirdly, the threat to the quality of life posed by an increasingly industrialized society was giving rise to a new spirituality, one which sought to counteract humankind's alienation both from inner and outer nature.

viennese artists were able to admire the oriental collec- tion in the austrian museum of art and industry. as part of the new trend in art around 1900, the work of koloman moser and josef hoffman is characterized by the seemingly contradictory components of floral arabesques and squares. these characteristics are also found in japanese design, however, where organic and geometric motifs are harmoniously combined.

furthermore, the japanese artist craftsman was a figure for whom the 'lower' applied arts and 'higher' fine arts enjoyed the same status -- an equality which the wiener werkstatte also championed. the formal expression of zen made a rapid and direct impression on viennese architecture; interior and exterior were allowed to flow smoothly one into the other by means of simple design and thoughtful use of materials.

objects made up of simplified forms translated emptiness into the round, whereby the specific character of the material remained visible. 'while telling us about his travels, a gentleman who knows japan well described a tea ceremony at the end of which the empty teapot was passed from hand to hand and the delicacy of its work admired by the guests.

this appreciation of artistic beauty formed the high point of the ceremony. apparently there is nothing unusual about this; it is an everyday habit to pay special attention to the quality of an object and the artistic work which is an inseparable part of it. to the european of today, such things sound like pure fiction." (josef august lux)

alongside frank lloyd wright in america, the artists grouped around josef hoffmann succeeded -- albeit not always comp- rehensively to the western-trained eye -- in transferring into their own work the vision of beauty in japanese art: the realistic prompts the absolute perfection of the decorative, and the self-contained consummateness of the decorative becomes the supreme revelation of the spiritual. 1

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Blogger zoe said...

another beautiful post--the idea of inside and outside flowing smoothly into one another is fantastic, i am looking around me for ways to apply that right now :)
also, what a perfect reminder of the beauty of the present moment, to first enjoy the tea, and then study the receptacle that it came to you in. everything is art...

08 March, 2010 09:44  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

hi zoe. thanks for your comment. nice to see you.

imagine discovering a whole culture of this suddenly, out of the blue.

08 March, 2010 10:30  
Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

Wow, these these are lovely. Are they bookmarks?

08 March, 2010 12:27  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

glad you like them, dominic. they're kind of amazing to me too.

the size is 41.6 x 9 cm., so that's roughly 16" x 3.5". each month had two pages of this size, the left hand one had the rest of the month's calendar on the bottom and was blank on top. so if that means that each was backprinted i don't know, but that would make sense.

they appear to have all been bound by a hole in one upper corner....

08 March, 2010 14:02  
Anonymous evan said...

I was lucky enough to see the Art Nouveau show when it rolled thru DC what seems like a 100 years ago. They completely recreated McIntosh's tea room & an Austrian "sitting" room. The rooms could not have been more different- very bright vs very subdued, but the thing they had in common was art completely weaved into the environment.

I have a really nice book about Moser. I don't think any of these pieces were in it (I'll have to go "rediscover" it. Anyway. Beautiful. It really does want to make you stop...well...make me stop & reconsider the direction my art's going in.

08 March, 2010 14:13  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

what an intriguing comment, evan. i'd love to hear more.

and you lucky little duck you! i'm glad you were so observant when you went there so you could share that; really interesting.

08 March, 2010 14:43  
Anonymous evan said...

more on the show- the things that really astounded me- Khnopff's "crayon" landscapes- the drawings were so much smaller than I expected, & amazingly clean & precise. Klimt's "Athena" painting was there- I'd alway lamented how dark the reproductions were that I'd seen in books & finally the original was right in front of me- glorious...& dark. The over-all aspect was the incredible quality of pretty much everything- I really created a sense that contemporary art is almost lazy- that so many artists out there have no sense of craft...that success seems to be more about a two-fold cultural...uh...something...artists hungry for fame who are masters not of art but of promotion, & a society impatient to crown the next big thing.

Sour grapes, maybe. But when you compare what you find in galleries with examples from artists who have gone before, even graphic artists like Moser or early Kokoschka, it's hard (for me, anyway) not to feel like the walls are filled with work by hacks.

09 March, 2010 11:26  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

it sounds like you've nailed one of the main 'arguments' of the 20th century. and i'll admit it, i haven't a clue. mark rothko can move me too.

but i don't spend 3 years sitting around reading about him.

09 March, 2010 21:29  

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