japonisme: 1/24/10 - 1/31/10

29 January 2010

a man for all seasons: 1906


sore uma ga uma ga to ya iu oya suzume

"Watch out for that horse!
Watch out!"
mother sparrow calls



waga io ya akutare karasu yase botan

at my hut--
rascally crows
emaciated peonies



kasumu zoyo matsu ga sambon meoto-zuru

in spring mist
three pines, two cranes
husband and wife



tori mo naki chô mo tobi keri furu tatami

birds singing
butterflies flitting...
old tatami mat


Or: "a butterfly flitting." Shinji Ogawa points out that naki means "sang" in this haiku, not, as I originally thought, "devoid of."
With his correction, the haiku now makes perfect sense.
Issa sits on his old tatami mat, enjoying the spring day along with the birds and butterflies.


tori no su ni akewatashitaru iori kana

surrendering it
to the nesting birds...
my hut


Issa ends this haiku, simply, with "hut" (iori kana). In a revision four years later (in 1824), he clarifies his meaning by ending the haiku with "the hut that is empty because its owner is away" (rusu no io). Issa is leaving his hut for a while, generously offering it to nesting birds. Shinji Ogawa notes that the verb akewatashitaru denotes Issa's abandoning or surrending his hut.


kyô mo kyô mo damatte kurasu ko kamo kana

today too
keeping perfectly quiet...
little duck



tabi-gasa wo chiisaku miseru kasumi kana

their traveling hats
looking small...


year unknown

ao no ha wa shiohi nagure no karasu kana

some stay behind
in the green leaves...
low tide crows


Nagure is the same as nagori ("vestiges," "remains"); see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1213. The crows at low tide are doing the same thing as their human counterparts: looking for shellfish. A few linger behind in trees and field.


chikazukeba [kyû] ni sabishiki momiji kana

drawing near them
a sudden loneliness
autumn leaves



ushiro kara ôsamu kosamu yozamu kana

behind me--
big cold, little cold
night cold



yuki no hi ya dô ni gisshiri hato suzume

on a snowy day
the temple is packed...
pigeons, sparrows


many continued thank yous to the amazing david g lanoue and his glorious issa pages, revealing the poet's humanity, humor, and the nature and customs of his world.

as is obvious, i have not yet been able to find a july for 1906 yet.
will remedy and announce when i do.

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27 January 2010

the real van gogh

Monday, 25 January 2010

First Impressions: The Real Van Gogh

by Kathryn Hadley

The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters’ opened this weekend at the Royal Academy of Arts. The exhibition focuses on Van Gogh’s correspondence to provide an insight into his ideas about art, nature and literature and the way he defined himself as an artist and human being. Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) wrote mostly to his younger brother Theo (1857-1891), who was an art-dealer and supported Vincent both emotionally and financially throughout his life and career.

Other letters are addressed to his sister Willemien and to fellow artists including Paul Gauguin. Many are illustrated with small detailed sketches which Van Gogh used to show a work in progress. The first major Van Gogh exhibition in Lon- don for over 40 years, ‘The Real Van Gogh’ provides a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a misunderstood and misrep- resented artist. The diversity and ver- satility of his works is striking; the breadth of his talent, which was only recognised after his death, is stunning.

Vincent van Gogh was born in Groot-Zundert in the southern Netherlands in 1853. His father Theodorus van Gogh was a Protestant pastor of the Dutch reformed Church. Vincent began work, in 1869, for Goupie & Cie a firm of art-dealers in The Hague. He was thereafter transferred to London and then to Paris. His employment was, however, terminated in 1876 and the following year he travelled to Amsterdam to study theology. In 1879, he began working as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium.

Van Gogh’s career as an artist did not begin until 1880, when he was 27. During his relatively short ten-year artistic career he produced over 800 paintings and 1,200 drawings. In the last 70 days of his life, he completed more than 70 works. On July 27th, 1890, aged 37, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest. He died two days later.

Van Gogh is most famous for his colourful depictions of still lives and landscapes using rhythmic and swinging brush strokes; however, the majority of his paintings were in black and white. He only used colour during the last four years of his career after he moved to Paris in February 1886. The first section of the exhibition is devoted to Van Gogh’s Dutch landscapes, which he painted, at the beginning of his career, in black and white and shades of brown.

For Van Gogh one of the key duties of an artist was to study and depict nature. He wrote in a letter to Theo in July 1882: ‘the duty of the painter is to study nature in depth and to use all his intelligence, to put his feelings into his work so that it becomes comprehensible to others’.

Van Gogh’s art was rooted in nature, and he returned to nature during the last years of his career, with his depictions of the seasons and landscapes of Provence that are most typically associated with him. From Dutch landscapes, however, he moved on to depict figures and the farm labourers and local weavers of the rural community of Nuenen, where he lived between 1883 and 1885.

Van Gogh became a colourist when he moved to Paris in February 1886. Based on his studies of Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) and Adolphe Monticelli (1824-1886), he deve- loped a theory of contrasting complementary colours (red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet), which he perfected in a series of flower and fruit still lives. In the summer of 1887, he produced Two Cut Sunflowers, one of his earliest depictions of sun- flowers. Van Gogh’s paintings became even more colourful when he moved to Arles in Provence two years later. He worked on a series of canvases based on complementary colours and increasingly came to view colour as a means to convey feeling and visual energy rather than reality.

A second secret and often underestimated facet of Van Gogh’s work is the influence of Japanese art. Van Gogh’s fascination with Japanese wood- block prints also developed following his move to Paris, where japonisme, the taste for all things Japanese, was very fashionable at the end of the 19th century.

Vincent and his brother began a collection of Japanese woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige and he later informed Theo that ‘all my work is based to some extent on Japanese art’. This Japanese influence is striking in the series of paintings and drawings that Van Gogh completed in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on the Rhone delta.

Although Van Gogh's gift for writing letters is somewhat obscured, the breadth of his talent as an artist shines nonetheless: he drew and he painted, in both colour and black and white, he painted landscapes, portraits and still lives, and was strongly influenced by Japanese art. 1

The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters
Until April 18th
Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London W1J 0BD
Telephone: 020 7300 8000

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25 January 2010

a man for all seasons: 1903



It is not the first, nor the second time that the work of Mr. T. Van Hoytema has been illustrated in THE STUDIO; yet one is surprised to find that the individuality and fantasy of the designer is not, so far,
as widely recognized in England as it deserves.

His work is too personal to be brought into any well-defined group and criticised accordingly. In spite of its shortcomings —or rather to speak more accurately, and at the same time more politely—in spite of its self-imposed limitations, within the little field Mr. Van Hoytema has chosen he is easily first.

For in his work there is a curious quality—that distinction which may be unobservant of academic scholarship, as in the case of Blake, or coupled with rare knowledge, as in the case of Mr. C. H. Shannon, and yet in both these unrelated examples entirely outside the ordinary standards. Mr. Van Hoytema's owls are always delightful, and his sketches of parrots, storks and turkeys show no less ingenious humour.

Nor is this quality achieved by humanising his feathered models; the touch of caricature he infuses is not in that direction. It is rather what you might expect if a bird developed powers of drawing, and started a series of portraits a la Rothenstein, in a limited edition issued by some winged equivalent of Mr. John Lane or Mr. Grant Richards.

Those who remember The Ugly Duckling (D. Nutt), or The Happy Owls (Henry & Co.), need not be told how cleverly Mr. Van Hoytema uses the resources of lithography in colours to express his ideas. Of course they suffer by translation to black and white, but at the same time much remains to prove his very facile handling and wayward fantasy.

They are un-English ; but that is no crime, for Mr. Van Hoytema is not a Briton. Much as one may prefer English ideals for England, it is still obvious that any other country which appreciates them does best when it assimilates, not imitates.

Because these birds are entirely unlike any of our own artists' impressions of fowls of the air, and are equally unlike birds as a Japanese would record them, they assume a distinct value ; because they add to the art of the world something not previously existing. It is a pleasure to make them known to a wider audience in England.

The two earlier books were obviously lithographed, and unless memory is at fault, in some previous announcement it was stated that the artist drew them himself upon the stone. If this be true, it is possible that his technical mastery is responsible for the only quality open to criticism, which is a fondness for superimposed cross-hatching and tints.

The charm of Mr. Walter Crane's mosaic of flat colours in his early toy-books, or of the graduated wash of Mr. J. D. Batten, and Mr. Morley Fletcher's colourprints, both satisfy one more entirely. In each the limitations of woodcut printing are evident, and the ordered result is more simple, yet more enjoyable.

But this is no doubt partly due to the scarcity of coloured lithography done by the artist himself, the millions of chromo-lithographs extant being almost, without exceptions, translations by skilled mechanics. Some modern Frenchmen have experimented in colour lithography
with the happiest results. In their work the economy of line,
which is in favour to-day, has produced a less complex,
but not less complete, effect.

Yet a certain drawing by M. Aman-Jean, and another by
L. Levy-Dhurmer (both reproduced in The Studio), pull you up sharply in any attempt to proclaim that flat pigments are alone admissible, and leave you again in presence of the truth, that any and every method can be justified in an artist's hands. 1

truth be told, that may not be the right december for this year, but it was a 'loose december,' so i'm glad to at least find a possibility for a month that is otherwise nowhere to be found! believe me, if i ever find the right december (if this isn't it), i'll replace it.

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