Japonisme

Artists often seek to expand beyond their ‘comfort zones’, not just stylistically but culturally. There have been many examples of painters from the west traveling to other locales in search of new and different subject matter, and it’s understandable. I mean, how many times can one paint the Place de la Concorde? The foreign sojourns of famous artists have, in many cases, produced some of their most compelling works; Matisse in Morocco, Gauguin in Tahiti, Sargent in Venice, just to name a few.

With the Tokugawa period starting in 1600, Japan was ruled by a feudal military dictatorship and largely isolated from the west due to its ‘closed country’ policy, or sakoku, which lasted for over two centuries. I had to look all this up because my knowledge of Japanese history is abysmal! Around 1854, the campaign of Commodore Matthew Perry forced the opening of Japan’s commercial trade routes. As a result, demand for Japanese decorative arts, fashions, woodblock prints, screens, porcelains and the like, became quite the craze among well-to-do Europeans. Artists took note and drew inspiration from the Japanese aesthetic. It became known as Japonism, or the French ‘Japonisme’, and you can see these influences in many works from the mid to late 19th century.

Some painters opted to integrate eastern themes and techniques in their work from the comfort their studios, posing an evidently Western model in a kimono, while holding a fan, etc. Monet’s La Japonaise is a famous example, in which the artist’s wife Camille poses in Japanese dress. American expatriate James Abbot McNeill Whistler enthusiastically embraced the Japonisme fad. This work of his from 1865, Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, is a beautifully rendered studio creation despite the bogus title. The model is British-born Christina Spartali:

The Dutch also jumped on the Japonisme bandwagon. Between 1893 and 1896, George Hendrik Breitner painted a series of works depicting a young girl, sixteen year old Geesje Kwak, in variously colored kimonos. This one, Girl in a White Kimono, is a strong piece. The kimono is lovely, but I find Geesje’s facial expression and arm gestures more interesting:

I’ve posed in a kimono several times myself, and held fans. But I’d like to return to this post’s introduction about travel and highlight the works of two artist friends who actually packed up their supplies and made the trip to Japan, where they were able to observe its culture, its people, and its elegant gardens firsthand. They are two guys from Scotland, George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel, prominent members of the “Glasgow Boys” collective of Scottish painters during the late 1800s. They spent a year and half in Japan on a study tour and produced really colorful, striking, energetic works. Note how markedly different they are from the ‘staged’ Japanese-themed paintings.

First, three from George Henry.  Japanese Lady with a Fan, 1894:

A Japanese Pottery Seller:

Japanese Beauty, watercolor:

And three from Hornel. Dancing Geisha:

Street Scene in Tokyo:

Two Geisha Girls:

Predecessors

Mr. Buonarroti is coming to town! That’s a guy more familiarly known as Michelangelo. Renaissance dude, I think you’ve all heard of him 😉 Here in the Big Apple, the Met Museum is gearing up for what surely sounds like a spectacular exhibition. “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer” will open on November 13th. Knowing my artist friends they will not only see it within the first week but will return for second and third viewings.

And now I’d like to share a vintage photo of an artist’s model being tortured, in the atelier of French sculptor Henri-Marius Petit, sometime during the 1930s. As you can see, she is holding the pose for the work ‘La Maternité’, without the breastfeeding baby of course. The leaning forward movement? That means eventual lower back pain. Her bent left leg and foot against the hard slab? That kills after an hour. This woman is in art modeling hell. And the men are all sitting around doing nothing while she does all the work! It must have been worth it though. The sculpture won the silver medal at the Salons des Artistes Français in 1934 and was purchased by the city of Metz, which renamed it ‘Monument to the French Mothers’.

This work – this arduous art modeling work – never changes, and I love it for that. The model in this photo is my ‘sister’. All the nude figures in art created from life are immortal images of my brethren. From Michelangelo’s men to Degas’ women, to all the men and women in academy studios and life classes throughout the world today and every day, we artist’s models keep carrying on …

A Note of Thanks

To those of you who reached out to me with expressions of support and concern after my “Ashes” post, you have my deepest gratitude. I’m incredibly touched by your kindness! You’ve been kinder to me than my family has been these past couple of years. So again, thank you – for the recommendations of Keranique and other products for hair loss, for sharing your own personal ordeals with family strife, and for assuring me that I don’t deserve to be taken for granted by people who are supposed to love me. These communications really, really help. During difficult times we all seek sources of strength wherever we can find them. My friends, my blog readers, my church, and my art modeling work make for a fine support system. Oh and Jessie the cat! She’s done her share by bringing me smiles and purrs on a daily basis 🙂

I’m getting out of town for the day on Saturday for a much needed change of atmosphere. But I’ll see you all right back here very soon. I wish you all grace and peace …

My portrait in red chalk by Livia Mosanu, created at the New York Academy of Art, summer 2017:

The Dancing Satyr

Imagine being an Italian fisherman and sailing off in your boat like you do every morning, to catch netfuls of squid, shrimp, mussels, etc – all the ingredients for ‘frutti di mare’, the sumptuous seafood dish that Italians prepare so well. Then imagine discovering a 2000 year old, barnacle covered bronze sculpture tangled in your fishing net along with the day’s haul of crustaceans and seaweed. You’d surely sail back to shore excited about your archaeological find. I know I would! That’s exactly what happened to Francesco Adragna and his fishing crew 50 miles off the southwest coast of Sicily in 1998.

The same fishing crew had found the left leg of the sculpture months earlier. They wondered when, if ever, they would pull the torso of the relic from that same spot in the Mediterranean waters. They did. And it was named ‘Satiro Danzante’, or the ‘Dancing Satyr’. What a beauty this is:

The ancient artifact, believed to be of Greek origin from the 3rd or 4th century B.C., was painstakingly cleaned and restored and determined to be a copy in the style of Praxiteles, or maybe even an authentic Praxiteles. The condition of the face is exceptionally good, and the active gesture of the body is both vigorous and graceful.

The ‘Dancing Satyr’ is on display at a museum in the Sicilian town of Mazara del Vallo. For more about this marvelous discovery, check out this New York Times article.

Happy 10th Birthday Museworthy!!

:slides down banister … throws confetti … lands a cartwheel … flashes jazz hands:

Just making an entrance worthy of a blogging milestone, my friends! So here we are, at the decade mark. Woo hoo! That late night when I launched this blog, ten years ago to the day, feels so far away. It’s getting harder to recall the days when I didn’t have this blog! And that’s ok.

Museworthy is just one of countless blogs on the web. I’m sometimes asked how one achieves longevity and builds a steady readership without advertising, without ‘clickbait’ sensationalism, and without high profile popularity. My answers? Well, it’s simple really. Provide original content, communicate in an authentic voice, interact in the comments, and keep the navel-gazing to a minimum. Also, a nude pic from time to time doesn’t hurt either 😆

Speaking of nude pics, we continue our annual tradition with a photo by Fred Hatt of yours truly. Fred and I had a really good session this time, much better than last year when I was a disgruntled pain in the ass. We decided on this pic which exemplifies art model posing – the work I love devotedly, which saved my life back in 2006 when I was so lost, and inspired me to start writing a blog in the first place. Here we can see some of that ‘negative space’ artists like so much, with triangle shapes, a leaning torso, lots of visible anatomy. Fred; beautiful lighting and great collaboration. Thank you, friend.

I must, as always, express my immense gratitude to all of you, for finding just a bit of time in your week to visit Museworthy. Blogging is fairly pointless if no one is reading! Words can’t describe how meaningful it is that longtime readers have stayed with me for the long haul. You guys rock! I’m also very appreciative that new subscribers have come on board. Welcome! To each and every one of you, whether you visit for art, music, tales of the city, or a spot of writing, I am humbled by your presence here. The modest ‘success’ of this intimate little blog makes me feel honored, astonished, and joyful. Big thanks also to WordPress for providing a first rate platform for bloggers.

We’re going ‘old school’ with our music selection this year, and with female voices for a change; early Pointer Sisters from 1973. The ladies from Oakland, California with fabulous harmonies and a funky R&B sound. That’s Anita Pointer killing it on lead vocals, backed up by Bonnie, Ruth, and June. The song, “Yes We Can Can”, was their first hit single and delivers a timely positive message.

See you soon, everyone! Love and blessings …

Your muse,
Claudia
xoxo

Interval

Hellooooo friends! Hope everyone is doing well. Just a little reminder that a special blog post will be published this Sunday and I invite one and all to come and join the party! For new Museworthy followers, this is an annual tradition around here, where we celebrate the continued life span of this blog. You can check out the posts from last year and from 2015.

Until then have a wonderful few days. Here’s a photo of an anatomy lesson at Minerva’s Drawing Studio:

Poetry in Motion

Those of us who regularly ride the subways in New York know that it’s a strictly utilitarian experience; a massive transit system that moves millions of commuters around every day, across 300 square miles. Many of the train cars are drab as hell, very old, with zero aesthetic value. It’s not an atmosphere in which you expect to find inspiration. But occasionally, among the repetitive advertisement placards for personal injury lawyers, laser hair removal, and Homeland Security “If you see something, say something” slogans, a spot of artistic expression appears, thanks to the MTA’s “Poetry in Motion” project.

As I rode the train to Brooklyn recently for an art modeling job, I was moved by this pithy little gem from the American poet Galway Kinnell. It was mounted at the end corner of the train car near the doors. Something came over me, and I felt like I was falling in love. I typed the poem into my phone as a text message to myself so I could bring it with me.

Hide-and-Seek 1933, by Galway Kinnell

Once when we were playing
hide-and-seek and it was time
to go home, the rest gave up
on the game before it was done
and forgot I was still hiding.
I remained hidden as a matter
of honor until the moon rose.

What is it about this lovely poem that resonates with me so much? Perhaps that it’s a childhood recollection, something that I generally respond to, and I loved hide-and-seek as a little girl. One of my favorite games. Or maybe it’s the “matter of honor” in a little boy’s mind to respect the rules of the game, to carry out his commitment, and to not allow his quitter friends to influence him. He would rather defer to the poetic supremacy of the moon to give him his cues. I love it.

Boys Playing, by Victor Gabriel Gilbert: