Crows, Cranes & Camellias by Amy Reigle Newland (Hotei Publishing, Brill Academic) Little is known about the artist Ohara Koson (1877-1945), whose career bridged the era between the decline of the full-coloured woodblock print (nishiki-e) in the late 19th century/early 20th century and the emergence of the Shin hanga ('new print') movement in the 1910s. An artist principally marketed abroad, Koson's bird-and-flower prints met with great success in the United States and Europe. He has only recently received attention in his native Japan following the discovery of important reference material including original sketches and paintings for his prints.
Crows, Cranes and Camellias: the Natural World of Ohara Koson 1877-1945 is the first publication in a Western language to discuss his corpus of work, and it has drawn upon the private Jan Perrée collection (now housed in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) for inspiration. First published in 2001, this new edition features an additional chapter on Koson's oeuvre and designs which have been discovered since the original publication of Crows, Cranes and Camellias. Including an overview of Koson's life and artistic career, augmented by a checklist of the majority of his work, select seals and signatures, this book is a valuable source for Koson collectors.
I was introduced to Asian art during my studies in architecture in the early 1950s when my professor of art history, Mr. Meddens, frequently shared his marvelous collection of Chinese, Japanese and Korean art with us. In 1962, a close friend, Harrie Heinemans, brought his holdings of Japanese woodblock prints to my attention. I came to admire the colorful designs of Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815), the Utagawa-school artists Toyokuni 1 (1769-1825), Hiroshige (1797-1858) and Kunisada (1786-1864) and many others, including Ohara Koson (1877-1945). These experiences inspired me to visit the auction houses of Christie's, Sotheby's, Drouot, Klefisch, Lempertz and Bödiger as well as various art dealers. I began to collect objects from China, Korea and Japan, ranging from ceramics, bronzes, inro, ivory, lacquer and furniture to woodblock prints and paintings. At the same time, I studied books on Asian art and visited numerous exhibitions in Europe.
In 1984, I participated in an architectural tour to Japan where we viewed the classic examples of modern architecture in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe including Kenzo Tange's National Gymnasia (1964), Takamitsu Azuma's Tower House (1967) and Tadao Ando's Glass Block Wall House (1979). We also saw the traditional gardens, buildings and temple complexes in Nara and Kyoto such as Ryoanji, Nijo Castle and the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji). The lack of time and bad luck hindered my visit to the woodblock-print collection of the Riccar Art Museum in Tokyo during this trip.
With time I realised that my passion to collect so many different types of Asian objects was too ambitious and that it was necessary to narrow my interests. I had purchased my first Japanese print about thirty years before. At that time I did not know the name of the artist, neither did the dealer. It pictured a silver heron (see cat. 156); the design was simple and strong with only a few accents of colour. I was taken by the manner in which the bird declined his head as if to protect itself from the cold of a snowy night. My friend Harrie Heinemans later explained that this piece was by Ohara Koson, and signed with his later artist's name of Shoson. It was on Koson, therefore, that I decided to focus my attention as a collector. The heron print turned out to be one of the most beautiful I have ever owned. As I was to find out subsequently such luck at acquiring a work was rare. In 1977 I received an invitation for the Christmas exhibition from the Milne Henderson Gallery in London which illustrated the aforementioned heron print on the front cover. When I compared the Henderson work with my own, it appeared that their copy depicted more snowflakes in the background. I was crestfallen at the thought I might possess a `fake' Koson. I discovered afterwards, however, that my copy was a first edition and the Henderson Gallery's a later one. Again, luck was on my side, and I have since learnt much from such experiences.
Sometimes it took years to acquire a specific design. For example, I had to wait five years before purchasing the 'Group of little egrets' (see cat. 154) during a fifth visit to Madame Nouillet's in the Rue de Beaune, Paris. Every year I wondered if the print would still be there, but eventually my original price was accepted. On another occasion, I hesitated too long and missed the opportunity of securing the piece 'Flowering plum', which even today is missing from my collection.
At present my collection consists of 230 woodblock prints and eleven paintings by Koson, one illustrated book and five paintings by Koson's master Suzuki Kason (1860-1919). As a collector I have always been very attracted to the poignant way in which Koson depicts small birds in combination with colourful blossoms. By contrast, birds of prey are often presented in scenes of stormy weather. I am likewise drawn to the strong compositions that characterise many of Koson's prints and the magnificent way in which colours are gradated.
During my many years of collecting Koson prints I have had innumerable questions concerning the artist such as what were the different names that he used during his career or who were the diverse publishers issuing his work. As there were no publications on the subject that could answer these questions I decided to produce a book on the artist myself. This has now been accomplished, with the generous assistance of those named below. I hope its publication will address at least some of the numerous queries still remaining about Ohara Koson.
Crows, cranes & camellias: the natural world of Ohara Koson (1877-1945) represents the first detailed study on this late 19th- to early 20th-century artist. The publication includes an introduction on the life and work of Koson, and a catalogue of one-hundred seventy-nine representative prints with short descriptive entries. This is followed by a checklist of works by the artist. Although a number of hitherto unknown works by Koson were uncovered during the compilation of the checklist, we are aware that this inventory is still incomplete. Nevertheless, we hope that it will mark the first step towards unravelling the mysteries surrounding Ohara Koson.
It has been estimated that throughout his career as Koson, Shoson and Hoson, Koson produced over 450 designs of birds. His position as a master in the portrayal of birds-and-flowers is plainly apparent; however, in actual fact, the ornithological inaccuracies encountered in his work suggests that he did not necessarily draw his avian subjects directly from nature. Nor were the species he illustrated especially unusual.' A catalogue of Koson's bird prints shows that the species he depicted most frequently included the tree sparrow, carrion crow, white-fronted goose, barn (house) swallows and cocks and hens/chicks. Koson's intent in the depiction of the natural world was therefore not 'realism', what we might anticipate in the West in a James Audubon (1785-1851) bird painting or hand-coloured print. His aim was also not especially symbolic, although to a Japanese viewer the image of a crow or crane would carry immediate associations. Koson's art is to be appreciated more for its 'naturalistic' treatment of the subject-matter, and equally important for its 'decorativeness'. His works can be judged as the embodiment the 'art of the decorative', but underlying this decorative quality was Koson's adherence to a basic tenet in traditional Japanese painting of the significance in conveying the 'spirit' of the subject. As the painter and print designer Toriyama Sekien (1712-88) once wrote, `to capture life in one's heart and mind and draw its forms with the brush is the true art of painting'." Koson's best work adheres to this principle, and he accomplished this by drawing upon the repertoire of brushwork techniques and compositional formats that were the mainstay of his training. His importance was in the continuation of, not as an innovator in, the kochoga tradition. Part of this role included the dissemination of his art in the West.
Over half a century later, and into a new millenium, we are still left with many unanswered questions about Koson. Who was the man Koson, why did he embark on a career as a print designer and what role did he truly play in the history of Meiji, Taisho and Showa printmaking? Can and should he be viewed solely as an artist whose contribution is only as a print designer for the export market, his images commodified to appeal to a certain audience? But perhaps we should momentarily set aside such questions and let the works speak for themselves. As in the words of William Shakespeare: 'beauty itself Both of itself persuade the eyes of men without an orator'.
Tales Of Days Gone By: Woodcuts By Naoko Matsubara by Charles De Wolf, Naoko Matsubara (Tuttle Publishing) is a selection of 17 stories from Konjaku Monogatari-shu, a 12th century collection of more than 1000 tales.The stories in this selection are divided into three categories: tales of women, tales of wonder, and tales of Buddhism. They were chosen and visualized in dynamic woodcuts by Naoko Matsubara.
Tales of Days Gone By is a selection of 17 stories from Konjaku Monogatari-shú, a 12th century collection of more than 1000 tales. Konjaku, like the more famous The Tale of Genii, looks back to "days gone by", yet it differs from the grand court novel in its remarkably broad depiction of Japanese society. This selection vividly portrays the period and the social atmosphere with a rich variety of characters: emperors, priests, wrestlers, women, fishermen, animals, demons and deities, presenting an aspect of traditional Japanese literature so far not widely known outside Japan.
The stories in this selection are divided into three categories: tales of women, tales of wonder and tales of Buddhism. They were chosen and visualised in dynamic woodcuts by Naoko Matsubara. With Charles De Wolf's fine English translation, and the superb design by Naoko's son Yoshiki Waterhouse, this book is one to savour for its looks as well as to delight the reader.
A fascinating and entertaining taste of early Japanese folklore, establishing a convincing picture of Heian Japan. Charles De Wolf has annotated the stories in a scholarly fashion, but his notes are tucked away so that the stories themselves can be read with pleasure by an audience more interested in the supernatural and the fantastic than in scholarship. / know that there are many thousands of young people today, all over the English-reading world, who delight in the kinds of 'alternative worlds' revealed in these tales. / have found nothing to rival this collection. It fills a real gap.
The origin of this book goes back some ten years, when three members of the newly organised Arts & Literature International Service (ALIS) went to a gallery in Sengawa, a suburb of Tokyo, to see woodcuts by Naoko Matsubara. The husband of one of the women had met Naoko in Toronto and, having seen her work, strongly recommended going to see the exhibition that was about to be held. It was as though fate had led them there: the moment they saw her dynamic and powerful work, a unique combination of western sophistication and an unmistakable Japanese sensibility, they knew that here was an artist who would be one of the mainstreams of their activities. Soon her essays on her art were being serialised in the ALIS quarterly newsletter. But what they had in mind was a book of her work with literary material combined in such a way as to create a mutually enhancing, harmonious whole. Such would represent just what Arts Et Literature International Service stands for.
Naoko, a world-famous artist, at first seemed quite out of the reach of ALIS, with no name or money. However, having in the past published two exquisite books on Japanese literary themes, Tu Tze-Chun [To Shi Shun] (Kodansha International, 1964) and The Tale of the Shining Princess [Taketori Monogatari] (Kodansha International, 1966), she took a positive interest in the classical Japanese materials that ALIS suggested. From among several candidates, including Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan, she chose Konjaku Monogatari-shu as the subject of the book, and from the large number of tales we read together, seventeen were chosen. The selection, small and limited as it is, vividly portrays the period, the social atmosphere, the people's lives and their ways of thinking, with a rich variety of characters: emperors, priests, wrestlers, women, fishermen, animals, demons, and deities. In this sense, it presents in a nutshell a unique aspect of traditional Japanese literature so far not widely known outside of Japan.
Inspired by the tales, Naoko worked vigorously; her woodcuts kept arriving in batches from Toronto as they were created. Translations into both modern Japanese by Hatsuko Miyamoto and English by Charles De Wolf also continued apace.
However, Japan's prolonged recession, seriously affecting the art and book business, long suspended publication of this book, even though both the artwork and the translations were completed. In the meantime, another selection of the tales has been published, including a few that appear here. We would nonetheless say: the more the merrier.
After some ups and downs, ALIS's Konjaku Monogatari-shü, the fruit of the love and patience of many people directly involved in the project, is at long last to see the light of day, thanks to the support and encouragement of many friends who have long waited for it. Here is Naoko's art at its height, reflecting 45 years of experience; the vibrance, power and intense colours are its hallmark, eloquently depicting the range of characters and situations. Born and bred in Kyoto, she shows a deep grasp of the Heian period piece and its Buddhist subjects, and she pays homage to human potential and shows her sense of wonder in these memorable works. The English translation by Charles, elegant and sensitive but vivacious or ironical where appropriate, also effectively evokes the Heian world but presents these revealing and entertaining tales in a way deeply satisfying to the modern reader. Who would have thought that they were written more than nine hundred years ago?
Originally conceived as a bilingual single volume, it comes in two separate books, modern Japanese and English versions. They are also available as a set, for those interested in the bilingual aspects of the project. Its impressive design is by Naoko's own son Yoshiki Waterhouse, who works in the office of the celebrated designer Massimo Vignelli in New York.
The two volumes are not intended as tomes for the learned but rather as beautiful books for everyone to enjoy. If there is also a scholarly side, it is discreetly tucked away in the background. We hope that they will also serve as a new and appealing introduction to the understanding of Japanese culture.
History of Japanese Art (2nd Edition) by Penelope Mason, revised by Donald Dinwiddie (Prentice Hall) Japanese Art, like SO many expressions of Japanese culture. is fascinatingly rich in its contrasts and paradoxes. Since the country opened its doors
to the outside world in the mid-nineteenth century, Japanese art and culture have enjoyed an immense popularity in the West.
When in 1991 renowned scholar Penelope Mason wrote the first edition of History of Japanese Art. it was the first such volume in thirty years to chart a detailed overview of the subject. It remains the only comprehensive survey of its kind in English. The second edition builds on Mason's massive achievement, extending the book's coverage of Japanese art beyond 1945 and introducing new discoveries in both archaeology and scholarship. The new edition also adds calligraphy, ceramics, lacquerware, metalware, and textiles into the story of Japanese art, and attempts to tie together more closely the development of all the media within a well-articulated historical and social context, so that the reader might better grasp the distinct, but complex evolution of Japanese aesthetics.
The number of color illustrations has been appreciably increased in this new edition and they are integrated throughout. There are also special illustrated sections on techniques and processes integral to Japanese art, along with a timeline, map, extended glossary, and a comprehensively updated bibliography.
With 480 illustrations, 100 in color
The late Penelope Mason wrote articles and presented papers on a broad range of subjects in Japanese art. She was one of the faculty at Florida State University in Tallahassee from 1979. A graduate of Swarthmore College, Mason held a Ph.D. from New York University's Institute of Fine Arts. She was a Japan Foundation Fellow in 1973 and 1978, an NEH Junior Humanist in 1971, and spent five years in Japan in nine extended visits there.
The revising author, Donald Dinwiddie, is an independent scholar of Asian art and culture living in London. He pursued his studies at the University of Kansas and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where he took a Masters degree in art and archaeology in 1990. He was for many years editor of the Asian art journal Orientations in Hong Kong, and now focuses on book projects in topics of Asian cultural history — most recently Portraits of the Masters: Bronze Sculptures of the Tibetan Buddhist Lineages.
Within the scope of this comprehensive survey are the painting, sculpture, architecture, and ceramics of Japan and their social, political, religious, and intellectual contexts--an ambitious undertaking, admirably accomplished. Clear, smooth writing draws beginning students of Japanese art and culture gracefully through dense amounts of information. The illustrations (about half in color) supplement the text, rather than the reverse. There are a number of books on Japanese art in English, but many spend a great deal of time on one particular period (usually the period the author prefers) and writes about the rest as though they were "add-ons". Mason's work is concise as well as informative about a broad range of topics, and will serve as a good stepping stone or introduction for those looking to get in to the world of Japanese art. The general volume dedicated to each time period shows a fair balance, and it is easy to see how earlier movements in art and design influenced later developments, from prehistoric times to the modern era.
If there are any problems to be sited with the text, it is that it is getting a little old. Since 1993 (the most recent edition) there have been many advances in art history in Japan (particularly regarding prehistoric art and society), and many of the newer focuses in the art history community (such as Edo period printed matter, particularly picture inserts) will not be reflected in the text.
Even so, this will serve as a good starting point for most, particularly those studying in a college setting. Those planning to specialize in East Asian or Japanese art should have a copy by their side, both for reference and for the many illustrations and photographs collected inside.
Zen Brushwork: Focusing the Mind With Calligraphy
and Painting by Tanchū Terayama, translated by Thomas F. Judge
& John Stevens (Kodansha International) With its
bold strokes and mystic aura, Zen calligraphy has fascinated
Westerners for decades, yet it remains an abstract, rarely practiced
form of expression outside of
Sho, the art of brush calligraphy, has always been highly
regarded as an art form in the
The calligrapher must become one with the brush if the brush is
to come to life. The ink can be thought of as a subtle substance
that expresses life and death, and the brushstroke as an opportunity
for expression that embodies the whole of the artist.
To become one with the brush means eliminating the self and
infusing the ink with the spirit to make each brushstroke resonate
with vital energy. The ability to manifest one's strength comes only
through dedicated practice….from the Introduction
After introducing the basics, Terayama presents a unique
meditative warm-up to establish the proper mental attitude needed to
release one's creative energies. Next, the power of the brushed line
is explained and demonstrated. What makes a good line or a bad one,
an expressive effort or an unfocused one? Lessons on brushing
symbolic Japanese characters follow, including those for
"emptiness," "nothingness," and "flower." The painting section shows
readers how to draw the spare yet elegant pictorial themes of this
classic art: bamboo, plum blossoms,
If the exercises are the heart of the book, the Appreciation
section is the soul. This chapter introduces classic works from
renowned priests and other historical figures, including Miyamoto
Musashi, the celebrated swordsman and author of The Book of Five
Rings; Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido; Jigoro Kano, the
father of judo; and Zen priest Hakuin. Each work is accompanied by
penetrating commentary on the strengths and salient features of the
Rarely has Zen calligraphy been demonstrated and discussed with
such candor and insight. Illuminating yet another side of Zen,
Zen Brushwork will be an invaluable source to those interested
in meditation, Zen, Buddhism, the martial arts, and Oriental
traditions in general. The book was translated by Thomas F. Judge, a
Japanese-English translator and author of books on calligraphy and
John Stevens, Professor of Buddhist Studies and Aikido Instructor at
Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and
Kakiemon by Takeshi Nagatake (Kodansha International) Ever since
kaolin was discovered in the Hizen area of
The hub of porcelain production in the seventeenth through
nineteenth centuries was the
Wares from the area generally came to be known as Imari, after the name of the nearby port from which they were shipped. One family of potters and kiln owners gained particular prominence for the beauty and quality of their wares: the Sakaida Kakiemon family. The Kakiemon tradition was started in around 1623 or 1624 by Sakaida Kizaemon, also known as Kakiemon I, and the family continues to produce porcelain today, headed by Kakiemon XIII. The Kakiemon workshops were based in the Nangawara-yama district of Arita Sarayama. This volume reveals the distinction in style between "pure Imari" and "pure Kakiemon," and the influence each had on the other.
Japan has long had a thriving tradition of
high-quality handcrafted ceramics, including some of the world's
most sophisticated porcelains. This highly informative volume
written by a leading authority describes the origin and development
of the elegant Imari and Kakiemon porcelain wares which were in
great demand in
Kaolin was discovered in the Arita area of
Porcelain produced in the Arita kilns came to be known as Imari ware, named after the nearby port from which local wares were shipped. The Kakiemon family gained particular renown for the quality of their color enamels and artistic designs.
Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context edited by Robert H. Sharf, Elizabeth Horton Sharf (Arc: Asian Religions and Cultures: Stanford University Press) The "enlightened" scholarly view that canonical Buddhism did not sanction the worship of images, or that, at the very least, did not sanction the view of images as numinous spiritual entities, was confirmed by a host of modern Asian apologists, many of whom were urbanized intellectuals educated in Western science and philosophy. These self-styled native informants, emerging from the colonial context, were at pains to cast their cultural heritage in a favorable light and thus were disinclined to mount a strong native defense of image veneration. Instead, they too repudiated image worship as both irrational and un-Buddhist, insisting that "true Buddhism" did not countenance idolatry; insofar as Buddhists did on occasion bow before images, it was no more than an expression of humility, gratitude, and the celebration of Buddhist spiritual ideals. Images, in short, were aesthetically pleasing symbols of the dharma intended to serve as sources of inspiration and faith. This interpretive strategy, ubiquitous in modern apologetic writings, corroborated the Western buddhological approach to images and thus mitigated the need for historiographically critical reappraisals of the subject?
The essays that comprise this volume join other recent attempts to look anew at the nature and function of Buddhist images, focusing on a small but significant sampling drawn from the Japanese tradition. The sculptures and paintings discussed in the chapters below were all sanctioned and revered by members of the clerical elite. Some were central to monastic ritual; others played pivotal roles in the lives of eminent masters, or in the evolution, legitimation, and dissemination of new teachings. Each chapter draws on a variety of materials in order to reconstruct the historical and institutional context surrounding specific icons and in the process contributes to the reevaluation of the status and function of the image within the Buddhist tradition.
Background to the Volume
The roots of this project lie in a collaborative study of Ch'an and Zen portraiture by the editors of this volume and T. Griffith Foulk. When the three of us‑two buddhologists and an art historian‑began our research on Zen portraiture some years ago, scholarly consensus held that the portraits of Zen abbots known as chinzo were distributed sparingly by the depicted masters to their dharma successors as "certificates of Zen enlightenment." In marked contrast to this oft‑repeated notion, our research demonstrated that in the medieval period thousands of such portraits were produced and distributed for use in funerary and memorial rites and in temple fund‑raising. In the process we called into question long‑standing assumptions concerning not only the nature of East Asian Buddhist portraiture but also the significance of Buddhist funerary rites and the meaning of Zen enlightenment. Our collaboration demonstrated the palpable benefits to be realized when specialists in the fields of Asian art history and religious studies join forces?
Although studies bridging the two fields are not unknown, substantial progress has been hampered by the divergent disciplinary perspectives mentioned above. Together with Koichi Shinohara and Phyllis Granoff of McMaster University, in Hamilton, Canada, we organized a conference in which buddhologists were asked to focus on images, rather than texts, and art historians were asked to attend to the ritual and institutional dimensions of their objects.
From the dozen or so papers presented at the conference we have selected four that we feel exemplify the intellectual spirit of the gathering. As a group they constitute a significant step toward a reappraisal of the nature of Japanese Buddhist icons: each essay testifies to the pivotal but often‑unrecognized role that icons played in Japanese Buddhist religious life. We believe that, published together, the collection will serve as a corrective to the tendency by buddhologists to overlook, and by art historians to misconstrue, Japanese Buddhist images.
The tendency to overlook or misconstrue Buddhist icons is, as mentioned above, aided and abetted by a number of popular misconceptions. Among them I would highlight the following: (I) the notion that the veneration of images of buddhas, bodhisattvas, guardian deities, and saints is a degenerate or rueful display of folk piety, a sop to the masses, that was tolerated, but not encouraged, by the clerical elite; (2) the notion that the doctrinally normative function of Buddhist icons is didactic, that is, that the canon sanctions icons only as symbolic expressions of the virtues of buddhahood, or as "skillful means" intended to nurture a sense of reverence toward the Buddha and his teachings; (3) the notion that images of holy patriarchs and eminent monks are essentially commemorative in nature, that they were intended to preserve their memory for posterity, or to serve as sources of spiritual inspiration; and (4) the notion that the primary function of certain buddha images and mandalas was to serve as adjuncts in meditative practices, that is, as foci for concentration exercises or as aids to visualization.
Although each of the four essays focuses on a different set of textual and art-historical materials, they all attest to the fact that Japanese Buddhist images were frequently treated, by elite monastics and unschooled laypersons alike, as more than mere didactic symbols, representations, or commemorations of divine figures or saints. Japanese Buddhist icons were regarded, more often than not, as living presences with considerable apotropaic and salvific power. This conclusion is simply inescapable: it is reiterated in historical documents, in liturgical and ritual materials, in biographies, hagiographies, and mythology, and is fully countenanced by scripture and commentary.
The chapters below contribute to this revisionist understanding of images through the critical reconstruction of the historical, institutional, and ritual context in which certain important Japanese Buddhist images actually functioned. Paul Groner's essay on Eison (1201-1290), and Karen Brock's essay on Myoe (1173-1232), for example, document the role that numinous images played in the lives of two celebrated members of the clerical elite, as well as in the lives of their followers. In his essay on portraits of Shinran (1173-1263), James Dobbins shows that early Shin piety was centered not only on images of Amida Buddha but also on glorified icons of Shinran. My own essay on the use of certain Esoteric mandalas argues that, contrary to virtually everything written on the subject, such mandalas did not serve as aids to ritual visualization, nor could they have; the mandalas are better viewed as living entities necessary to ensure the efficacy of the rites performed in their presence. Together the essays demonstrate that, far from being a degenerate form of folk religion, the veneration of images was a central feature of Buddhist practice in Japan, irrespective of sectarian affiliation, social status, or clerical vocation.
insert content here