Japanese Prints of Western Inventors, Artists and Scholars
February 5, 2018 12:27 PM   Subscribe

 


Heh, yeah, that subtext is preeeeeeeeeetty strong. I'd love to see if there's any work by Japanese feminists covering this era. Like, the women in these scenes are clearly being cast as saboteurs of progress, which in the Meiji era would mean they're representing the old feudal order. Which makes me wonder if there was a genuine change in the role of women in Japanese society at the time which inspired a backlash as reflected in these prints, or did their existing marginalised role just make them easy scapegoats?
posted by tobascodagama at 1:37 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Wonderful. My father has a copy of a similar print, of Isaac Newton staring at an apple falling from a tree and discovering gravity. The best part is that Newton is in an 1850's American Sailor outfit, because that was all the artist must have seen of western fashion.
posted by nickggully at 2:23 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I don't know how specific it is to Japan at the time, to be honest. The first thing I thought of was how common it is to portray a man's home life (and the woman in it) as a necessary sacrifice to his success. The women who go along with it being good, understanding wives, and the women who don't - well, we might pity them but they don't really get it, do they?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:25 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


On the page with these drawings is this, a book of Japanese wave and water designs. I find this awesome. Just a addition to the Japanese art of the main post. One of the wave sets looks like fractal imagery. The book runs backwards, and the "fractal image" is four clicks in on the lower left. As far as the post goes, it doesn't make sense to me to measure the past with the yardstick of current day ideals for male/female relationships. I think the concept is interesting, an educational manual regarding western lifestyle and inventions/inventiveness.
posted by Oyéah at 2:46 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


These are strange; I felt sure they were a joke until I checked. If you wanted to show Audubon's genius, surely anything would be better than him yelling at a rat. And I wouldn't make Watt's invention of steam engines a cozy domestic scene with a teapot in the hearth. On the other hand, I remember reading a biography of Martha Washington in 3rd grade that spent a lot of time on her choosing a cocker spaniel puppy named Freckles.
posted by acrasis at 3:32 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


These are based on Samuel Smiles's Self-Help, or rather on the 1871 translation by Nakamura Masanao, Saigoku Risshihen ('Success Stories in Western Countries'), which has been described as 'a blend of utilitarian morality with traditional Confucian stoicism and samurai self-reliance'. It was a bestseller in Japan.

Here's Smiles on Arkwright:
Arkwright was a stubborn and enthusiastic man, and he was provoked beyond measure by this conduct of his wife, which he never forgave; and he, in consequence, separated from her.
And Smiles quoting Audubon:
The box was produced and opened; but, reader, feel for me -- a pair of Norway rats had taken possession of the whole, and reared a young family among the gnawed bits of paper! The burning heat which instantly rushed through my brain was too great to be endured without affecting my whole nervous system.
Carlyle's dog and Watt's aunt seem to be embellishments by the Japanese translator.
posted by verstegan at 3:57 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


I don't know how specific it is to Japan at the time, to be honest.

One of the featured men in the series of prints is Thomas Carlyle, who was the one who thought up the Great Man Theory of History in which great changes are brought up by white male übermenschen who direct the course of history, so it's highlighting Watt and Arkwright as great heroes of industry instead of boring stuff like "the Inclosure Acts drove thousands of landless peasants to seek work in the cities so they made up the workforce in the Industrial Revolution".

What seems more specific to Japan is the insistence on perseverance/ ganbaru as moral lesson. It's a bit of an in-joke, but the quote I made earlier on belongs to a manga about manga artists that ran in the Shonen Jump magazine, and shonen manga are rife with "ganbatte" and "don't give up, keep training" messages.
posted by sukeban at 10:35 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Marie Curie wanted to discover radium, but she was distracted by her colleagues' endless mansplaining. She told them to fuck off, and in the end, she was successful.
posted by pangolin party at 3:28 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


On the page with these drawings is this, a book of Japanese wave and water designs.

These are fabulous.
posted by OmieWise at 5:52 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


The image of Bernard Palissy burning his furniture in front of his wife and children is part of the traditional historical iconography in France, and one familiar to millions of French pupils until fairly recently. In the Japanese version the wife and kids are scared, but in the European versions the wife is usually angry (also here, here and here) or just worried (also here and here) or sad. However, there's one case where the family is admirative.
posted by elgilito at 6:11 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


If you wanted to show Audubon's genius, surely anything would be better than him yelling at a rat.

manuscript-destroying rats are a major problem in japan.

On the page with these drawings is this, a book of Japanese wave and water designs.

I'm reminded of this and other pages from Hokusai's manga. (Link goes to volume 9 of 15 or so, or so, at archive.org. National diet library, http://dl.ndl.go.jp has it too, somewhere, but I could only find the lo-fi version there this time. meh.)

Hokusai and woodprint buffs may also like the sensitive ink brush paintings of animals in nature and/or fart battles of Kawanabe Kyōsai (河鍋 暁斎). The rest of the writing at dr-yokai.blogspot.com is brilliant as well. Incense! Roadside apparitions! etc, etc.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:12 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


These are great, thank you for posting them, and thank you all for the supplementary links!
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:08 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


« Older We have to put the whole show on the field in six...   |   28 Years Later Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments