A Grammar of Japanese Ornament and Design (Dover Pictorial Archive)

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A Grammar of Japanese Ornament and Design

Rendered by a trained British architect, the images comprise one of the most comprehensive surveys of Japanese art and ornamentation. Included are graceful details from landscapes, floral motifs, abstracts, sea life, and other designs — ideal for use in modern textiles, graphics, and a host of other art and craft projects. A delight for anyone interested in Japanese art and culture, this volume will be an invaluable source of permission-free graphics for designers and decorators in search of new subjects with authentic Japanese flavor.

Over figures on 65 plates. In the inner courtyard are a number of bronze lanterns of rich design. The temple is nearly square in form, with a small projection at back, containing the sacred shrine. The whole is carved and coloured both on the exterior and interior: the latter enriched with engraved and gilt bronze to parts of columns, roof timbers, and doors, the colours most noticeable being red and black, and the carving generally in light colours, the whole being very rich as a decorative effect.

It is easy to imagine the picturesque effect produced by a number of temples and buildings, seen through the trees in different positions, roof towering above roof, with the background of noble foliage, the temples individually rich in lacquer, carving, gilding, and coloured tiles, intermixed with ends of timbers and posts plated with chased and gilt bronze.

Surrounded by a garden, they become the meeting place and holiday grounds of the people.


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  • There may be seen majestic firs and cedars, flower-laden plum and cherry trees, avenues of cryptomeria, and miniature lakes filled with iris and water-lilies, and tenanted by golden carp. And thus while sublimity and grandeur of architectural design are absent, the mind is deeply impressed with the beauty of the surroundings, the marvels of colour, and the exquisite taste displayed in landscape gardening, which have a combined charm distinctively national.

    The exterior of a Japanese yashiki was very similar to the temples, only designed with greater simplicity—the same pent roof and the same plan. No one imprinted his originality upon the facade of his residence, all were externally more or less alike, only differing in their extent, according to the rank of the owner; they were always surrounded by numerous smaller buildings intended for guards, stables, etc. The lesser buildings for the farmers, artisans, and traders follow the temples and yashikis in plan, and may be described as an outer framing of solid posts and rafters, in lieu of walls, supporting a heavy overhanging roof of tiles or thatch; the roofs are elaborate and heavy, to weight the framing, and as it were to balance the building, and better to resist the shocks of the earthquakes.

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    The exterior skeleton framing is filled in with easily moved sash frames or sliding panels. Draw the panels, shut the sashes glazed with paper, and you have only a poor effect, giving the idea neither of beauty nor solidity. The interiors are divided into rooms, by folding screens, or light sliding partitions often filled with paper decorated with painting, as a substitute for glass, which was not known. IN sculpture, the Japanese rarely attempted to master the difficulties of drawing the human form. They have undoubtedly been largely influenced by their several religious creeds and systems of philosophy, and it is questionable whether their peculiar rendering of the figure be the result of accident or the want of power; it could scarcely be the latter, for it would appear probable that the artist who could draw the foreshortening of a bamboo spray, and the feathers and claw of a bird in various attitudes, could have accurately delineated a human foot or hand.

    The Buddhist and Confucian philosophy produced an effect upon sculpture and painting similar to that of the early mediaeval religion upon European art,—a contempt for the beauties of the human form, which came to be treated in a hard, conventional manner. Buddhism gave them the grand and impressive Dia-butz of Kamakura, which, although an outrage on anatomy, possesses a certain beauty in the sublime religious reverie expressed in the countenance.

    Some marvellously perfect wood carving, executed by a Corean sculptor in the seventh century, still exists in Japan, and many fine works were produced down to the thirteenth century by noted temple wood-carvers. It is, however, in the smaller carvings that the wonderful talents of the Japanese are displayed, and their netsukes are often marvellous in their humour, detail, and even dignity.

    These netsukes comprise groups of figures, flowers, birds, animals, insects, in fact almost every conceivable object, rendered with a fidelity, minuteness, and delicacy almost inconceivable. The netsuke, or toggle, forms the extremity of a double silken cord, which, after passing through a bead, encircles the inro, or medicine case. It will be easily understood how by this arrangement this little case, or more frequently the tobacco-pouch and pipe case, can be securely attached to the obi, or broad band encircling the waist.

    The true netsuke is a kind of button, carved from a single piece of ivory, hard, fine-grained wood, or other materials, of such a form that it can suffer little injury from the wear and tear of daily use. Many of the carvings do not fall under this definition, being in fact mere ornaments, and are called okemono, "things for placing. There are some carvers of note in Japan, but as the names of these artists are systematically forged, the deciphering of them is of little value in forming an estimation of the age or merit of a netsuke.

    The subject of the carvings is frequently taken from Chinese and Japanese history, stories of the heroes and warriors of the middle ages, legends and mythology, or humorous renderings of the types of man and beast to be seen daily in the streets or fields.