The Lure of the West European Elements in the Art of the Floating World

2 between1639and 1720thejapanese ereforw biddento

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Unformatted text preview: itecture,optics, and anatomy.2 Between1639and 1720,theJapanese ereforw biddento studyor readanyEuropeananguage l or to own any Europeanbooks. Thischanged i t s only when aJapanesecholar,nstructedo create a more accuratecalendarbasedon a Chinesetranslation f a Dutchbook on calendrics, o marilythroughNagasaki. artistshad first been to be given accessto the Dutch origAlthough Japanese pleaded inal. Shogun TokugawaYoshimunerelented, to Westernart by the Portuguesein exposed and the ban on studying Dutch was lifted, the sixteenthcentury,it was only in the eigha teenth century that Westerntechniques and openingthe door for a handfulof scholars nd of compositionbecamemore generally artists to pursue what came to be known styles familiar. tchingsandoil paintingsbroughtto as Rangaku, or Western Learning (literally E Dutch merchantsled to experi"Dutchlearning": anfrom theJapanese ror p Nagasakiby ments in these mediums by Japaneseartists. nunciationof "Holland," randa,plus gaku, O I t The Japanesemediumin which the influence "study"or "learning").t is important o keep in mind that the interestin perspective nd in a of Westernart is most clearly seen is woodblock printing.It is well known that the Edo otherWestern echniquesof compositionwas t if anything only an outgrowth of a deeper witnessedthe most brilliantflowering period of woodblock printing in Japanesehistory. interest in such disciplines as astronomy, Beginning in the late seventeenth and early optics, anatomy,and even political and ecothe artof Ukiyo-e ("picnomic theory. eighteenthcenturies, This article surveys severalof the more tures of the FloatingWorld")emergedin the ateliers f the Hishikawa, orii,andKaigetsud6o thanfortyuki-e,orJapanese erspective rints, o p p T in the collection of The Art Instituteof Chischools. This genre, which took as its focus the brilliantliterary,fashion, and entertaincago. The museum's uki-e span the entire ment culture of Edo-the last-named comf periodof the genre's roduction, romroughly p both the Kabukitheaterand the govto the end of the Edo period (1868).The prising I740 ernment-licensed pleasure quarter called museum is particularlyfortunate to own an excellent impression of the earliest known Yoshiwara--dominated Japanese art in the woodblock printto bearthe word uki-e in its capitalfor nearlyone hundredfifty years.By the mid-eighteenthcentury,the first experititle. This print, entitled Large Perspective ments in the use of Western erspectivecomPicture[o-uki-e] fan Eleventh-Month yogen o K p i had appearedn Ukiyo-e woodblock Performancefig. i), is by the Ukiyo-e painter ( position andprintdesigner kumura asanobu i686O M prints and paintings. Employing vanishing( Like many prints of the period, this these designs, whether in point perspective, 1784).3 one takes as its subjectthe lively Kabukitheo paintings r prints,cameto be known as uki-e, or "floating pictures."The fascination with ater,which flourished in eighteenth-century Edo. The image is characteristic f the earlio and laterwith shadowsand other perspective, est Ukiyo-e graphicsin being printedin ink light effects, was born of the most minimal i aloneandthenhand-colored,n this case,with contactbetweenJapanese rtistsandthe Dutch a red and yellow pigments. The print depicts merchants and doctors who brought with 76 MuseumStudies This content downloaded from on Sun, 29 Sep 2013 20:18:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions LITTLE THE LURE OF THE WEST 1 FIGURE Okumura Masanobu (1686-1764).Large PerspectivePicture of an Eleventh-Month Kyogen Performance, 1740.Hand-colored woodblock print; 46.3 x 67.9 cm. 2 FIGURE Clarence Buckingham Gerard de Lairesse Collection, (Dutch, 1640-1711). 1925.2285. Perspective drawing (detail), from Groot schilderboek (Amsterdam,1738), p. 366. Ryerson and Burnham Libraries. MuseumStudies 77 This content downloaded from on Sun, 29 Sep 2013 20:18:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions LITTLE THE LURE FIGURE 3 Furuyama Moromasa (c. 1712-1772). a Beachcombers t Shinagawa Bay, mid-174os. Handcolored woodblock print; 31.1 x 46 cm. Clarence Buckingham Collection, 1932.1354. OF THE WEST the Kabuki actor IchikawaEbizo II playing YanoneGor6in the "arrow-sharpening" scene from a revengedramaabout the Soga brothers, produced at the Nakamura Theater in Edo in I740. Since theater prints served as souvenirsof specific productions,timeliness was all;we canassume hatMasanobu esigned t d this printin i740. The dramatic iew is clearly v based on Westernmodels, although it only t t approximateshe one-pointperspective echthatit so closely imitates. nique Recentresearch n early apanese ttempts o J a at European perspective suggests that Japanese artistssuch as Masanobuwere probably influencedmore by Chinese translations of Western manuals of perspective (which they would have been able to read) than by European originals of the manuals.4Certainly,however, y the 176os,artistslike Shiba b Kokan (1747-1818) are known to have owned d G suchbooks as Gdrard e Lairesse's rootschilderboek (first published in Amsterdam in 1707), a Dutch manual on pai...
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