1

0

 

0

6

 

1

1

 

 

 

A

R

T

 

 

 

1

0

 

0

6

 

1

1

 

 

 

A

R

T

 

 

 

1

0

 

0

6

 

1

1

 

 

 

A

R

T

 

 

 

1

0

 

0

6

 

1

1

 

 

 

A

R

T

 

 

 

1

0

 

0

6

 

1

1

 

 

 

A

R

T

 

 

 

1

0

 

0

6

 

1

1

 

 

 

A

R

T

 

 

 


(Detail) Peacocks and Peonies, Tani Buncho, Edo period,
Hanging Scroll, ink and color on silk:
All photos:
(metmuseum.org)


 
 
     

 

The Moon

 

 and Autumn Grasses

 

 

In autumn, the evenings when the glittering sun sinks close to the edge of the hills and the crows fly back to their nests in threes and fours and twos; more charming still is a file of wild geese like specks in the distant sky.  When the sun has set, one’s heart is moved by the sound of the wind and the hum of the insects....
Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book

 

There are some rooms at the Metropolitan Museum where one can stop these days for a few long moments, sit in meditative stillness as if in a Japanese garden (everybody else, it appears, is looking at Indian Miniature paintings, magnifying glass in hand, for that show has just opened).  But here, where loveliness resides, it is time to stay and be moved by the evanescent changeable moods of nature in all its lyrical imaginings.

 

(Detail) Autumn Grasses, Edo period, Pair of six-panel folding screens;
ink and color on gilt paper
 

This story goes a long time back, all the way back to the Heian Court, where aestheticism reached some high crest of sensitivity, all this expressed in language and all things visual, the interweaving of the two so that both became calligraphy, and calligraphy expressed both.  Observation was everything, to be moved by nature was refinement.  It was an elite culture; lovers gave each other poems.  The nuances of color, the changing of the seasons—a leaf that slowly disengages itself from the outstretched hands of branches, floats softly to earth with a rustle that is like the swishing of the silk of a robe of cherry with an underskirt of gold....all this was to be noticed, was there to thrill the senses, to be written down as poetry and literature, and then to be captured and made beautiful again in scrolls and screens and kimonos.  The dance of seasons echoing all the emotions of life and love.  Autumn the season that is the most haunting of all, this sadness an aesthetic one.
 


Writing Box with Design of Gourd and Butterfly, Shibata Zeshin, Meiji period, Powdered gold and silver (maki-e) on black lacquer

 

Here are painted fans that unfold like screens; summer robes (kosode) of flowers and autumn robes with leaves of changing color; exquisite boxes of lacquer, tiered boxes, many with the recurring gleam of gold (maki-e technique) on black lacquer, a writing box with a gourd and a butterfly (how odd, how perfect); a picnic case from the Edo era that disassembles and is of such perfectly harmonious proportions (its dull gold sprayed with chrysanthemums); scrolls with paintings of a rooster in a storm, peacocks (with peonies of course, these pairings recurring motifs), an eagle swooping down on a swan; and screens, glorious paneled screens of lacquer, silver leaf, gold, ink, on gilt paper (everywhere gold, the gold recalling the bronze-y sheen of autumn leaves, the color of the season), and often with the same theme, this an old motif from literature and poetry—that of the moon and autumn grasses. 

 

Melancholy silhouettes of overlapping reeds or branches of leaves creating their own whispering patterns, and somehow managing to be both abstract and of nature, color reduced to golds silvers bronzes, the gleam of moonlight, the darkness of leaves at night.  The moon stopped like a tear down curve of sky, sigh of autumn grasses, a crying deer, all symbols that were evocative of the season, the transience of life, of love.  The soul howling at the moon.  And saying how beautiful it all is, how beautiful and how sad.

 

(Detail) Autumn Grasses in Moonlight, Shibata Zeshin,
Meiji Period, 2-panel folding screen,  
ink, lacquer, and silver leaf on paper

 

And then a few chosen objects of modern design that achingly capture the mood of all that has gone before—a beautiful dish of bluish-green porcelain like a leaf, color staining it like the faintest blush, a stoneware urn that is rippled through, water turned to stone.

 


Listening to the Waves, Sakiyama Takayuki, 2004,
Sand-glazed stoneware

 

And there is much to see also at Wonder of the Age, Master Painters of India, 1100–1900; we kept coming back to the paintings of Mansur (called 'Wonder of the Age' by Emperor Jahangir).  There are other delights in these rooms of miniatures, other painters and paintings of princes hawking, camels and elephants fighting, historical scenes, but Mansur’s paintings of chameleons and peacocks reminding us of the Japanese rooms with their changing seasons, his peafowl (we noticed a flock of birds like specks in the sky, and they were specks on paper too for this is a miniature) crying out to those that stood in other rooms (surrounded by peonies, of course), his chameleon of leafy verdigris . . . and autumn was spring again, everything was green again . . . . 

 

Mansur, A Chameleon, Ink on paper, 17th Century

 

Visit: A Sensitivity to the Seasons, Summer and Autumn in Japanese Art (closes October 23rd)


&
Wonder of the Age, Master Painters of India, 1100–1900,  Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

 

Tags: art  design   literature  color  poetry   books   history   india   japan   museums   pattern

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sensitivity to the Seasons, Summer and Autumn in Japanese Art (through October 23rd)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This piece was written earlier, before the news of the death of Steve Jobs, but we thought, as we read the New York Times obituary, that his aestheticism was not that different from that of the Heian court:
 

    'He [Steve Jobs] put much stock in the notion of “taste,” a word he used frequently.  It was a sensibility that shone in products that looked like works of art and delighted users.  Great products, he said, were a triumph of taste, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you are doing.”'

The New York Times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Picnic Set with Chrysanthemum Design, Edo period, Gold and silver maki-e on "pear-skin" lacquered ground

Share this article on facebook:   

Share:        

 

Forward this email to a friend   Permalink  

   
 

 

 

   

     

ARCHIVES ART LITERATURE ARCHITECTURE FILM MUSIC DANCE PHOTOGRAPHY DESIGN FOOD THEATRE FASHION TRAVEL


Subscribe About Us Editorial Policy Privacy Policy Contact Us Unsubscribe Press Archives Search   ©2011 eCognoscente