Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Hayashi Kodenji: At the Peak of Japanese Cloisonne Enamel

 Last week's blog was a lead-in to this week. As I previously mentioned, the Impressionists were inspired by the art in painting, woodblocks, and paper that was being imported from Japan. There was another form of Japanese art that was captivating them. It was the beautiful and excellent cloisonne enamel vases made by Hayashi Kodenji (1831-1915)




Cloisonne is French for "closed." It's an ancient process where metal strips or wire (usually gold or silver) outline a design. The ancient Egyptians used the process and then put precious or semiprecious stones in the enclosed area. However, for the purposes of objects practically used, powdered enamel filled the open areas and then the whole object was fired in a kiln. 



Kodenji was a master of the technique.In his Nagoya studio, he was also a brilliant marketer. The story goes that he literally walked his vases to the port of Yokohama to place them carefully on the ships heading to Paris. He made sure they were featured at the 1868 & 1878 Paris and 1873 Vienna Expositions. 

The Europeans were quite taken with the beauty and quality of the workmanship. Kodenji, along with a few other Japanese cloisonne enamel masters were held in very high regard.

 (When you look at some of the floral designs do you see where Monet's Giverny gardens might have been conceived?)


In the way of passing the knowledge to the next generation, Kodenii's son, Hayashi Kodenji II, (1859-1922) would continue to operate the Nagoya studio. It's reported that the father and son worked together for 40 years and that makes it difficult to differentiate. I'd like to think it was collaborative. In any case, Nagoya Studios won at many exhibitions.

 The high demand meant many cloisonne enamel artisan studios thrived in Japan in what was to be the Golden Age of Japanese cloisonne enamel. The last studio is now gone. The archives, tools and enamel materials are preserved in the Museum of Kyoto. 


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Japonisme and the Impressionists

As Japan finally opened trade with Europe in the late 19th century, many European artists were fascinated and inspired by the Japanese art and skill referred by the French as "Japonisme." It would set the stage for not only inspiring the Impressionists, but also set for the future of Art Nouveau and Art Deco.


The Impressionists were particularly interested in the flat dimensions, bold colors and stylized dramatic subjects of Japonisme. From imported wrapping paper Monet saw in a spice shop to Japanese silks inspiring Van Gogh, many felt that a door opened to combining their style with that of another culture.



 Each artist combined their talent with the Japanese influence of everyday matters and objects. It might be a bridge or a woman washing her hair. Through the Japanese woodblock prints and paintings, it might be the perspective where the artist's view was above the scene they were painting. Some artists took inspiration from the flat composition without shading for perspective sometime involving a mix of textile designs. 


 The list of Impressionist whose works were inspired by Japonisme includes such luminaries as: Cassatt, Whistler, Degas and the aforementioned Van Gogh and Monet. (How many can you identify?)





It changed the rules and lead to one of the most fertile creative periods for Europe into the 20th Century.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Jeffrey Bale: The Art of the Pebbles


After the summer hiatus, art blogging is back! I searched quite awhile looking for an artist to kick off the return. It would be an artist - a mosaicist - originally from the city I call "home." His name is Jeffrey Bale, who grew up in Eugene, Oregon and graduated from our local university.



Bale received his degree in landscape architecture in 1981. After a short-lived experience in an architectural firm, he found his inspirations from trips to Portugal and Spain. There, he saw the beautiful pebble inlay designs in the sidewalks and gardens. 




His pebbles are something he finds or otherwise purchases from vendors, who provide the pebbles from beaches in Baja, He works out his designs in sand. Once he's satisfied, he disassembles the design and begins the process of setting a section at a time in mortar. 


The quality and uniqueness of his designs means that his works can be found throughout this country and many other nations. He's also the author of 4 books and has been featured in NY Times, Martha Stewart Living and Better Homes and Gardens.