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Japonisme - From Edo to Rothko

Japonisme - From Edo to Rothko

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This essay discusses how Japanese art and aesthetics have influenced Western art and in particular, the author's current body of work.
This essay discusses how Japanese art and aesthetics have influenced Western art and in particular, the author's current body of work.

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Barbara Safran de Niverville on May 10, 2013
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09/15/2013

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SafrandeNiverville1BarbaraSafrandeNivervilleJanAvgikos,FacultyAdvisor04April2013Japonisme:FromEdotoRothkoItiseasytobecharmedbythearabesquelines,gracefulcolorandstylizeddetailsintraditionalJapaneseart.TheEdoperiod,particularly,producedopulent,yetsimplified,imagesof“nature”
1
onscreens,scrollsandprintssuchas
IrisesatYatsuhashi(EightBridges)
byOgataKōrin(1658-1716)or
FloweringPlantsandVegetablesoftheFourSeasons
(early18thcentury).ThedepictionofplantsandbirdsrivalsthefinestdrawingsinEuropeofthesameperiod(1615–1868).
MuchhasbeenwrittenabouttheopeningupofJapantotradewiththeWestin1854followinga200-yearperiodofseclusion.EuropeanartistslookingforwaystobreakwithEuropeanacademictraditionadopted“expressiveline,abstractgraphicstyle,decorativecolorsanddramaticasymmetricalcompositions”asaresponsetoukiyo-iwoodblockprintsandJapaneseappliedarts.Thisenthusiasmalsocoincidedwithafascinationfordecorativestyles.Fromtheearly1860s,Japonismecouldbefoundinnearlyallmediaacrossavarietyofstylisticmovements.(Floyd)Jean-PierreLehmansummarizesthatJaponisme“wasbornfromtheEdoeraandwasconcentratedontheworldofthesenses:Japanwasextolledasalandofasceticsuperiorityandsensualsensitivity.”(758)AnimpressivenumberofwesternartistsfellunderthespellofJapaneseprintsandartifacts,includingJamesMcNeillWhistler,EdouardManet,EdgarDegas,ClaudeMonet,
1
Nature:
that which is not directly produced by humans, and which acts independently of humanity. See Soper page 15.
 
SafrandeNiverville2andVincentVanGogh.(Floyd)However,thisenthusiasmwasnotwithoutitsproblematicaspects.Images,andtheattitudesandstereotypeswhichtheygiveriseto,tendtobeformedatanearlystageofencounterbetweentwosocieties;inotherwordsinitialimpressionshaveastrongpowerofpreservation.Followingfromthis,itisclearthatimagesrarelykeeppacewithreality.(Lehman757)Europeanartiststendedtointroduceexternal,stylisticelementsofJapaneseartsintotheirownwork.Forinstance,JamesMcNeillWhistlerbelievedthatborrowingJapanesemotifsliberatedhisartfromthenarrativeandmoralisticdemandsofVictorianpainting.
CapriceinPurpleandGold:TheGoldenScreen
(1864)isaportraitofJoannaHiffernancostumedinasumptuouskimono,examiningprintsbyHiroshige.SheisseatedonthefloorinfrontofagoldenJapanesescreen.Thecompositiontiltsslightly,asifWhistlerisviewingthescenefromabove.Diagonalsofthecarpetaddvisualmovementtoanotherwisestaticarrangement,butthepaintingremainsanoccidentalviewofexoticartifacts.Anothermorewellknownpaintingfromthesameseries,
LaPrincessesdupaysdelaporcelaine
1863-65,hangsinthefamedPeacockRoomintheFreerGalleryofArt,Washington,DC.Themodel,ChristinaSpartalli,posesasoneoftheelongatedfigurestypicalofChineseporcelainandJapaneseukiyo-Iprints.(Freer/Sackler)WhistlersucceededinintegratingJapaneseelementsinmoreminimalistcompositionsinhisseriesofNocturnes.
Nocturne:BlueandGold–OldBatterseaBridge
1872-5seemsreminiscentofHiroshige’sprintsofbridgesinhis
OneHundredFamousViewsofEdo
series,whileitstandsasasignaturepieceofWhistler’swork.
 
SafrandeNiverville3ClaudeMonetalsoposedamodelinanornatekimono,hiswifeCamille,inthepainting
LaJaponaise
of1876.Holdingafan,shewearsablondwig,asiftopointoutherEuropeanorigins.Lookingbackin1918,Monetcalledita“fantasy.”Herelatedthathehadexhibitedthedark
TheWomaninGreen
attheSalonof1866withsuccessanditwassuggestedthathetrytorepeatit.Hewasshownthegold-embroideredrobe,whichbecamethefocusofthelight-heartedandairypainting
LaJaponaise.
(Gimpelqtd.inStuckey)In1906,KakuzoOkarura’s
TheBookofTea
waspublishedinanefforttoexplainJapanesetraditionstotheWest.Atthetime,Okakurawasknownasascholar,artcriticandcuratorofChineseandJapaneseArtattheBostonMuseumofFineArts.Inthisessay,Okakuraexplainedthe“peculiarorientalityoftheOrientandusedteaashissymbol.”(Bleilerqtd.inOkakura
iii:xv 
)Teaismiaacultfoundedontheadorationofthebeautifulamongthesordidfactsofeverydayexistence.Itinculcatespurityandharmony,themysteryofmutualcharity,theromanticismofthesocialorder.ItisessentiallyaworshipoftheImperfect,asitisatenderattempttoaccomplishsomethingpossibleinthisimpossiblethingweknowaslife.(Okakura1)Thecontrastingoftheopulentortheperfectwiththeimpoverishedorimperfectfacilitatestheappreciationofeach.ThisJapanesenotionof
wabi
,isa...quintessentiallyJapanesetaste....OneofthehallmarksofthetraditionalJapanesedesignprincipleisharmonybroughtaboutbyjuxtaposingdisparate,oftencontrasting,elements.Theunityofthewholeisdesignedtoemergespontaneouslyfromthecontributionofeachelement…(Saito377-379)

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