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Textile Decoration in the Edo Period and its Further Implication

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

William Watson
Affiliation:
University of London

Extract

As compared with earlier times the emergence of period style in any sense of a unified concept during the Edo period is obscured for the historian by unprecedented factors: the new multiplication of figural and narrative subjects in painting, the predominance of new class interests and patronage, the dissemination of printed pattern books, the suddenly expanded commerce and industry of decorative art in its many branches. Viewed from outside ofjapan the scene has not been clarified by the recent Japanese official emphasis on the art of the Momoyama period as the proper historical perspective for restored imperial rule, nor by an obsession in the west with the special qualified and genre interest of the prints and paintings of the Ukiyo-e school. The work of the latter, in a well-established conventional wording, was ‘patronised by comparatively uncultured people, aimed at a simple and unsophisticated expression, mostly beautiful and sometimes even sensuous rather than deeply spiritual and scholarly’. This approach to the so richly varied art of Edo, and to the original dimension within it created by the new relation of decorative to expressive art, reinforced by the fragmentation of schools, has militated against the definition of pervasive structures in composition which endow the whole art of the period with its distinctive character. The present paper looks to textile decoration as epitomizing a universal trend in design and as an index to stylistic change with some claim to general validity.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1984

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References

1 The Edo works cited are taken from the exhibits at the Great Japan Exhibition at Burlington House, with reference to the catalogue.

2 For recent illustration of contemporary practice see Shinō kōshō (Shigoto to kurashi Edo Meiji III) (Heibonsha, 1979).Google Scholar

3 See Yuzō, Yamane, Sōtatsu.Google Scholar

4 The treatment resembles that of a similar subject on screens of Momoyama date, but with bold conversion to Rimpa style. See Nihon no sanzuiga ten (Tokyo National Museum and Asahi Shimbunsha, 1977), Pl. 37.

5 Gendai sekai bijutsu zenshü 12 (Kawade Shobō, 1954). Col. pl. 2.

6 Ibid., Pl. 24.

7 Ibid., PL. 27.

8 Ibid., Col. pl. 7.

9 Ibid., Col. pl. 9, PL. 32.

10 Ibid., PL. 33.

11 Michiaki, Kawakita, Kindai Nihon bijutsu no kenkyü (Shakai shisō sha, 1969), PL. 53.Google Scholar

12 Ibid., PL. 4.

13 Ibid., PL. 51.

14 Ibid., PL. 48.

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