japonisme: 4/1/12 - 4/8/12

01 April 2012

don't believe a thing i say!

okay, april fools and all that, but i'm not completely kidding (and since i didn't finish this yesterday, it might not count anyway). sometimes in the mythologies i try to untangle for you i get some things seriously wrong for one main reason: i forget to check the dates. in fact i wouldn't be sur- prised if i haven't attributed some things to some artists that happened long before, or long after, they died. i hope you know what i mean!

let us begin with, for example, gustave courbet who died at age 58, in 1877. he was born in 1819. obviously. see his example above right? very natural clouds. no outlines. (they really tend to not have any outlines; i have been checking.) and then we have hokusai: all outlines, nothing realistic about them. while he was born in 1760, he was producing artwork until his death in 1849. quite an overlap in lives, these two. the moment of japonisme would have passed hokusai by completely, while all of courbet's training and experience, and the way he saw, were set by the time of the invasion.

now to put these generational questions into some context, may i mention that hiroshige lived from 1797 to 1858 (getting closer to courbet, aren't we?) and monet lived from 1840 to 1926. monet, the impressionists, were the first artists to imbibe from the teacup of the japanese, but the next gener- ation made things extremely interesting. there were the cowboy painters, painers of the mesas of utah and arizona, dixon, cassidy, and borg: realistic clouds with outlines.

they were the next generation; they, these brilliant western painters, were of the same generation as some of the artists we have gotten to know well over the years: henri riviere, pierre bonnard, frances gearhart, and, only slightly younger, hiroshi yoshida. yoshida did not even begin to make prints (he had been a western-style painter, as they were called then) until he was in his 40s -- one year before arthur wesley dow died!

what this boils down to is that any illustration i have given you of influences yoshida may have had on dow are completely erroneous! arthur wesley dow's birth (1857 - 1922) occurred one year before hiroshige died! dow was more a contemporary of monet than the many proponents of japonisme with whom i have linked him; dow was, as was monet, the first wave -- the primogenitor of influences of japonisme, and not any part of the gang.

henri riviere, pierre bonnard, carl oscar borg, maynard dixon, and hiroshi yoshida all died within four years of my birth. these donors of legacy are no further in the past than is world war II. these artists are of the generation of my grandparents, or great-grandparents. in other words, we still swim in their stream. there was no flood diverting it.

so with regard to clouds (and we have discussed them before; just click on the 'clouds' tag to see the other discussions), we now have a much clearer line of inheritance: it is obvious that the japanese gave us outlines and we gave them perspective. they gave us simplicity and we gave them the multi-pigmented shades of color of which the world is built.

see here the same cloud, albeit different times of day, as offered by frances gearhart and hiroshi yoshida. many similarities. yoshida's work presents far more subtleties than does hokusai's, and gearhart's far more outlining and simplifying than courbet's. but who learned from whom? do they more accurately owe each other a debt as do artists working at the same time? i think they do.

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