japonisme: 3/7/10 - 3/14/10

11 March 2010


09 March 2010

anonymous as weeds (the calendars)


Some--the ones with fish names--
grow so north
they last a month, six weeks at most.
Some others,
named for the fields they look like,
last longer, smaller.

And these, in par- ticular, whether trout or corn lily,
onion or bell- wort, just cut
this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen,
will close with the sun.

It is June, wildflowers on the table.
They are fresh an hour ago,
like sliced lemons,
with the whole day ahead of them.
They could be common mayflower lilies of the valley,

day lilies, or the clus- tering Cana- da, large, gold,
long-stemmed as pasture roses, belled out over the vase--
or maybe Solomon's seal, the petals
ranged in small toy pairs

or starry, tipped at the head like weeds.
They could be anonymous as weeds.
They are, in fact,
the several names of the same thing,
lilies of the field, butter-and-eggs,

toadflax almost, the way the whites and yellows juxtapose,
and have
"the look of flowers that are looked at,"
rooted as they are in water,
glass, and air.
I remember the summer
I picked everything,

flower and wildflower,
singled them out in jars
with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn
as paper I put them on pages and named them again.
They were all lilies, even the hyacinth,

even the great pale flower in the hand of the dead.
I picked it, kept it in the book for years
before I knew who she was,
her face lily-white, kissed and dry and cold.

Stanley Plumly

From Summer Celestial by Stanley Plumly.
Copyright © 1983 by Stanley Plumly.

who doesn't sign their work? who will deliberately remain anonymous? we can assume that some artists-for-hire are not allowed to identify themselves, but that leads to a situation like this one. there's no agreement as to who the artist is in these lovely, graceful, works.

one website claims that the piece was done by leo- poldo metlicovitz, but the other sites i could find representing this claimed the artist as 'unknown.' this is one of the most consistent sets of japan-inspired work i've seen. how might i find more by this artist?

this whole set is available here. the description is as follows: "7.1 x 13.4 inches (18 x 34 cm); lithograph, backed on linen."

as for my ques- tions ... well ... tomor- row is ano- ther day. but let us give a moment for the silent creators who still have the power to move us 101 years later.

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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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