Hiroko T. McDermott
Clare Pollard
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK, 2013, English
Nonfiction, Textile Design
8.7 x 11 inches, 200 pages
ISBN: 9781854442680
Suggested Retail Price: $40.00

From the Publisher. This book is a pioneering study of Japanese ornamental textiles made for the foreign market during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These exquisite embroideries, resist-dyed silks and velvets, tapestries, and appliquéd works were an important feature of the Western fascination with all things Japanese at that time, winning numerous accolades at international fairs and being used to decorate homes across Europe and the United States. Yet since then they have been largely forgotten. This book, which will appeal to textile enthusiasts and those interested in Japanese art and Japonisme alike, celebrates these remarkable and undervalued textiles. It discusses their production techniques, iconography, patronage, and trade and demonstrates how Kyoto craftsmen created a modern art form by adapting their traditional skills to Western tastes. The book accompanies an exhibition of the same name opening at the Ashmolean Museum on 9 November 2012. Featuring textiles from the newly formed collection of the Kiyomizu- Sannenzaka Museum in Kyoto and from the Ashmolean's own holdings, this is the first exhibition of Japanese ornamental textiles of the Meiji period (1868-1912) to be held outside Japan.

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Norman Weinstein

Japanese textiles invite multi-sensory interaction from design mavens and textile collectors alike. Intricately embroidered surfaces and luxurious silk folds seem to cry out for appreciative human touch. Mark this catalogue from a recent show of extremely rare Japanese textiles designed solely for Western markets a rare achievement. Production values were so rigorous for this volume that a reader comes as close as possible to sensing the depth and irregular surfaces of textiles.

Since these commissioned or market purchased textiles were intended to decorate the interiors of Victorian-era homes, wall hangings and screens abound, festooned with de rigueur Oriental exotica, embroidered dragons, phoenixes, and tigers. But surprising subject matter intrudes as well since this work was entirely export fare. There are hangings with kitschy embroidered American flags Jasper Johns might envy, and a naturalistic seascape worthy of a beach town’s souvenir shop. The tawdriest imagery is totally redeemed, however, by baroquely ornate embroidery patterns crowned with gold thread stitching of stunning virtuosity. The few dozen surviving Japanese textiles from Meiji Japan featured here—few people took these textiles seriously as art worth preserving in the West in the late 19th century, so many examples have decayed—shimmer and glow with an otherworldly splendor evocative of a Noh play, or to amplify the East-West cultural exchange factor, a Morris Graves painting of a rare bird of an inner eye with deep Asian vision.

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