japonisme: perchance to dream

02 May 2011

perchance to dream


Through blue summer nights
I will pass along paths,
Pricked by wheat,
trampling short grass:

I will feel coolness underfoot,

Will let breezes bathe my bare head.

Not a word, not a thought:

Boundless love will surge
through my soul,
And I will wander far away, a vagabond
In Nature -- as happily as with a woman.

Arthur Rimbaud

Emile Galle was born into his craft, and at first he carried on the traditions of the Victorian Era, flounces on pottery, but he came of age in a time of massive transitions; those of them most influential to this student of horticulture (as well as art) were the psychology of dreams and the unconscious, and the tremendous influx of Japanese culture.

Allied with him in these interests and perspectives were the Symbolists, particularly the poets, several of whom were his friends.


A green hole where a river sings;
Silver tatters tangling in the grass;
Sun shining down from a proud mountain:
A little valley bubbling with light.

A young soldier sleeps, lips apart, head bare,
Neck bathing in cool blue watercress,
Reclined in the grass beneath the clouds,
Pale in his green bed showered with light.

He sleeps with his feet in the gladiolas.
Smiling like a sick child, he naps:
Nature, cradle him in warmth: he's cold.

Sweet scents don't tickle his nose;
He sleeps in the sun, a hand on his motionless chest,
Two red holes on his right side.

Arthur Rimbaud

Thus far, when we've looked at Galle, we've looked at beauty, as well as Japanese influence, but now we must look deeper. the work of the Japanese was not merely a new graphic direction as much as, like Van Gogh, a religion. to begin to deeply absorb himself in the holiness of nature. Gabriel Weisberg points to subjects like frogs eyeing dragonflies (and dragonflies themselves), as evidence of this. 1 Galle, like the Japanese, also inscribed lines from symbolist poetry into much of his work; this one: Hugo's Escape from motionless shadows.

for dream is occasionally nightmare; where does that difference exist? Debora L. Silverman tracks the new science of psychology on developing artists. 2 Galle's deepest motivations became those to record his dreams, to recreate them in glass, and then to provoke them in anyone who held his work. He proposed to evoke the "latent spirit beneath phenomena." what better medium to reveal layers than glass.

Among the foliage, green casket flecked with gold,
In the uncertain foliage that blossoms
With gorgeous flowers where sleeps the kiss,
Vivid and bursting through the sumptuous tapestry,

A startled faun shows his two eyes
And bites the crimson flowers
with his white teeth.

Stained and ensanguined like mellow wine
His mouth bursts out in laughter
beneath the branches.

And when he has fled -- like a squirrel --
His laughter still vibrates on every leaf
And you can see, startled by a bullfinch
The Golden Kiss of the Wood, gathering itself together again.

Arthur Rimbaud
translated by Oliver Bernard 3

the establishment of reverence should be the goal of any art; the artist must therefore be on the road to open himself, to remove the layers of interpretation which blind one from genuine experience. Galle's pursuit of the dreamworld and its language was clearly this. He writes,

How can one explain the power exerted on the least noble and most delicate of our senses by the dizziness of the scent of carmine, by the flattery of subtle colour, burrowing more deeply into our souls than the thrust of crude colour, finally, by the dream-inducing, dusty velvet feel when you touch -- more subtle than any shining glaze.

Verlaine adds, We want nothing but suggestion/ No more colour, just suggestion!/ For suggestion alone can marry/ The dream to another dream, the flute to the horn.

Whether Verlaine or Hugo, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Leconte le Lisle, Villon or many others, the addition of haiku-like bits of poetry into Galle's creations brought both halves of the brain into the experience, at the same time as the fingers touch solid where the eyes see liquid. We still today ask the question, where do dreams come from? Galle's answer intrigues and informs us still.

Emile Galle was inventing Modern Art just at the moment when the depths of dreams were beginning to enter the common language, suggesting the reality and the symbol, were both real, and both not real. That plus his invitation of glass into the universe of poetry, makes him worthy of examination to this day.

The clouds gathered over the open sea
which was formed of an eternity of warm
tears. in In the woods there is a bird,
his song makes you stop and blush. -- Rimbaud.

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Blogger Gerrie said...

Gallé, and Lalique also, were both sculptors, printers, painters and poets and catchers of dreams and the light in this strange medium glas. Many talents united in one artist. And incredible craftsmen they were too. Great post Lilly, thanks.

09 May, 2011 14:16  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks, gerrie, for your kind words, and for adding great info into the mix.

oddly, when i started researching this post, it was going to be about almeric walter, but it got sidetracked!

09 May, 2011 14:43  
Blogger Gerrie said...

hahaha no info, just very enthousiastic and admiration for both the great objets d'art as your choise and research. looking forward to the almeric water post.

10 May, 2011 03:55  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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