Friday, June 1, 2012

From Japan to the West and back again

“Tipsy,” a print by Kobayakawa Kiyoshi, 1930.
Japonisme was all the rage with European artists at the end of the 19th century, and when the Art Deco movement came along, the Japanese returned the favor by adapting the style to their own artworks. A richly varied show of Japanese Art Deco pieces in multiple genres—both fine art and popular/ commercial art—is going on in New York at the Japan Society. "A section of the show is devoted to the modern woman," writes the New York Times, "one who enjoys a liberation paralleling that of her Jazz Age sisters in America and Europe. In numerous paintings and sculptures, women dance, drink, smoke, relax in states of near nudity and otherwise revel in hedonistic freedom that recalls the old, Edo-period district of pleasurable pursuits known as the Floating World." The works come mostly from the collection of Robert and Mary Levenson of Clearwater, FL, although  five of the paintings are on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Tsuda Shinobu (1875–1946). Deluded Demons Run Away: Roaring Chinese Lion. Cast bronze, 1938. (11 x 17¼ x 5½ in.). Photograph courtesy of The Levenson Collection.
Hayashi Bunshū (born 1895), with Gyōzan, Shōsai, and Mikizō (dates unknown), Box with Celestial Horse Ascending to the Sky. Lacquered wood with silver and gold inlay, 1937. (13 x 10 x 5 in.). Photograph courtesy of The Levenson Collection.
Salon's "Five-Minute Museum" series has a slide show, and there's a wealth of information in the video overview below, with enlightening commentary by several curators.


If this subject intrigues you, don't miss The Influence of Japanese Art on Design, which details the movement from East to West, or The Ideals of the East: with Special Reference to the Art of Japan.

15 comments:

  1. I always thought of Japanese culture as very traditional and homogenous. Considering the mainstream reactions to the flappers in the US and Europe, I'd be interested to know how Japanese traditionalists reacted to these artworks and the women who inspired them.

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    1. Cornelius LoomisJune 1, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      Very interesting point. It would make a very good case study!

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    2. I think it's safe to say that traditionalists were most likely outraged by these patently non-traditional works. I would have been.

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  2. That flying horse piece is magical!

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  3. Yeah, the Celestial Horse box is gorgeous!

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  4. Celestial horse!! That same image is airbrushed on my custom van!!! Totally b**chen'!!

    Also-- regarding the first image.. I didn't realize Trixie from Speed Racer was a smoker! Mach 1 must smell like stale cigarettes!

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  5. Very cool topic today! I'm interested now to know what the title of the first image is, or what it advertises, since the second work is titled "Tipsy". And I love that though these images depict more modern themes and ideals, the style is characteristically Japanese.

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    1. If you look at the sample images on the website and at the video, many of the images of women are from sheet music for harmonica of all things.

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  6. I totally dig this post today. i took a look at the slide show pretty sweet. i especially enjoy the "Seabathing at Shimotsui, Shibukawa, Tsuda Matsubara," mid-1930s. Fun stuff to look at, for sure.

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  7. Had no idea about this at all! Much more progressive than I expected and, as always, Japanese art truly ups the ante. Utterly gorgeous...

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  8. The slides are very neat. I like the 2nd slide of the short haircut w/2 different colors (can't see the title).

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  9. The Chinese have long complained that the Japanese borrowed everything from them, ideographs to lions! But the Japanese do give whatever they borrow their own twist. Very nice post!

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  10. This is very interesting. I also was under the impression that japanese culture was very traditional and conservative. The painting and sculptures are amazing. So is the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. If you ever have a chance to go it will blow your mind!

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    1. I would like to travel the world going to museums; the one you mention is high on the list!

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