By Liza Hyde : Excerpt from Daruma 22
Screens - I love them. Of course, I am speaking of old Japanese screens. I live with them, I cherish them, I am in awe of them and sell them. My whole life seems to revolve around these wondrous painted objects. Their fascination can grab you.I love screens with pines and wisteria. The pines represent men, the wisteria women (perhaps that is why they are often intertwined). I also love flowers — cherry blossoms, irises, chrysanthemums — and flower carts with a profusion of flowers. Screens with autumn grasses too and I have a special affection for autumnal leaves.
Morning Glories, Vines and Grasses, Mineral Pigments on Gold Leaf, Six Panels, 178 x 366 cm., early 18th Century
All of these bring the glories of the outdoors into your space, effortlessly. Flower screens and I are as one; perhaps this is why people come to me — searching for flowers which will grow more beautiful year by year without weeding, watering or withering!Writing this I can look up and admire autumn leaves but this will soon give way to a snow-filled landscape with snowy birds. But, come March, nothing will do but carts strewn with an explosive profusion of colorful flowers!Some corners of my house, however, never change. The first screen I bought — a superb two-panel flower cart on gold leaf (with restorations) — still hangs in its same old place after all these years. Lots of visitors have wanted to buy it off the wall but I feel about it the same way as kids who keep the first dollar they earn: it’s for keeps.
Representative Japanese art form
People come to me looking for treasures because they have seen them in museums, or became aware of them when the Morikami Museum in Del Ray Beach, Florida presented the largest grouping of Japanese screens ever to be seen in southern Florida — my private collection.Others have seen them at the home of friends or may have seen photos in magazine ads, or seen them in a booth at The International Asian Art Fair or Arts of Pacific Asia Show in New York.
At any rate, come they do, to look, to learn more about, and eventually perhaps own one and take it home to somewhere in the USA, Europe, Latin America, Singapore, or even back to Japan.Many Westerners think of ukiyo-e woodcuts as the representative Japanese art. They tend to imagine, mistakenly, that ukiyo-e were introduced to the West before other types of Japanese art, and thus were the first to open Western eyes to Japan.
It is true that the woodcuts of beautiful women of the pleasure quarters or dramatic-looking actors of the kabuki theaters were introduced to France in the second half of the nineteenth century; they attracted the attention of the French Impressionists painters, who adopted some aspects of the prints into their art.
It may come as a surprise for Westerners, then, to learn that it was byôbu, Japanese folding screens, which were the first Japanese works of art to be introduced to Europe, long before those woodblock prints. Byôbu made a great impact on European artists, who not only owned and displayed them, but also made copies.Liza Hyde deals in old Japanese screens by appointment at her home in New York. Enquires may be directed to 212-752-3581 (phone) and 212-751-6319 (fax).
Topics in this issue: , byobu, screens, wisteria
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