History of Art: Japanese Painting

Theo Lesoualc'h; translated by Pamela Marwood

"When Japanese prints were on show in Paris from 1867 onwards, Impressionism and its derivatives principally took from them certain formulas: formulas and precedents which formed the basis for the innovations considered desirable by painters at the time. Whistler, whose Old Battersea Bridge caused a sensation, was adapting Hiroshige. Degas, with his diagonal compositions, his balancing obliques, his broad planes, had taken his inspiration from Hokusai. And Monet would not have cut off so many boats in the middle, nor so far developed his evocation of the day without shade which is truly itself", without the example of the ukiyo-e.

His Nympheas, that long pictorial meditation which occupied the last twenty-five years of his life, remains one of the most profoundly Japanese works that has ever been painted in the West, less perhaps for its actual style and quality of light than for the feelings behind it and those it seeks to arouse in this spectator. As the painter once confided to his friend George Clemenceau: "I simply bend my efforts towards the maximum appearance in direct relation to the unknown realities....When one is on the plane of concordant appearances, one cannot be far from reality, at least, as far as we are able to know it." These words might equally well have came from a Zen master. This need not be surprising, however, considering they were spoken at Gilberny, in the vast park Monet contrived there by diverting a river, at the time he was working on the Nympheas. This park, and this fresco eighty-seven yards long, echo the spirit of Zen, which, say the sages of Yamato, blows where it lists, but lingers more readily than elsewhere in those places where man seems to have divined the secret plans of nature, and has undertaken to extend them accordingly. Van Gogh also approached the Japanese ideal as it was then revealed: he finished by perceiving the Edo landscapes in the Arles countryside - or very nearly! His tragic fate reads almost like one of those apologias in which the golden legend of Far Eastern painting abounds. The same with Gauguin, another haunted man." excerpt from the introduction by Jean-Clarence Lambert.

Published by Heron Books, London, UK, 1970 | Hardcover

  • Language: English
  • Hardcover
  • 17.5 x 27.1 cm
  • 208 pages
  • Book Condition: Used book in very good condition showing minor signs of wear.
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