Kōrin moyō is another example of a pattern book produced in the late Meiji period. While the sleek style and naturalistic motifs of Art Nouveau are readily apparent in most zuan, pattern artists were also influenced by Rinpa style. A revival of this aesthetic in the Meiji period, led by Kamisaka Sekka, further modernized the already highly stylized Rinpa motifs, while still referencing classical Japanese literature and poetry. Furuya Kōrin, who studied with Sekka, took his name from Ogata Kōrin, from whom the name Rinpa is derived.
In Kōrin moyō, Furuya Kōrin demonstrates his mastery of common Rinpa motifs. In this opening he combines a depiction of a persimmon tree with grape vine and morning glories. In his design for many of the page spreads, he utilizes an upper register for a simple pattern that complements the lower more intricately printed scene. While it is not unusual for numerous patterns to be grouped together in zuan books, Kōrin works the space to his advantage and ours. The thoughtfully composed pages help slow the pace, allowing the viewer to reflect on the subtle relationships that emerge among the composition, color, and subject.
Carpenter, John T. 2012. Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Saunders, Rachel. 2008. “Patterns of Identity: Kimono Pattern Books in the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.” Andon 83: 49–57.
Wood, Donald A., and Yuko Ikeda, eds. 2003. Kamisaka Sekka : Rinpa no keishō. Kyoto: Kyoto Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan.
Kyōka zuan belongs to a category of pattern books that was published in the Meiji period primarily to be used in textile production or for ceramic and lacquerware decoration. These books developed from hinagatabon of the Edo period such as the one shown in the previous entry; however, zuan often featured both patterns coming from the traditional repertoire and newly imported trends. One example of the latter in Kyōka zuan is the exquisite design of peacock feathers. Like the earlier hinagatabon, this two-volume book could be appreciated for its aesthetic value, as much as for any practical application.
Keika’s clever juxtaposition of patterns on this page is as masterful as the designs themselves. On the right, yellow tachibana oranges float in the swirls of water, which resonate with the blue clouds on the facing page. The pastel colors of the stream and the autumn bellflowers (rindō) below are countered by the bold black ground with stripes and bright roundels. Since many of the designs were intended to appear on kimono, they often refer to typical dyeing and embroidery techniques such as shibori (tie-dye) or sashiko (stitching used for both decoration and reinforcement of clothes). In the opening shown, the roundels are decorated with a distinctive kanoko shibori pattern that is created on fabric by tying it in small pinches before dyeing.
The Kyoto publisher Unsōdō produced this volume; this firm played a key role in producing and popularizing zuan books and journals. Established in 1891 as a publishing house specializing in art books, Unsōdō capitalized on the developing genre and fueled its further creation and distribution.
Johnson, Scott. 2014. “New Colours, a New Profession & a New Idea: Zuan Enrich Kyoto Design Books.” Andon 97 (September): 117-28.
Nakajima Tanjirō’s Hīnagata Amanohashidate is a book of kimono designs, ranging from simple black and white foliate patterns to elaborate imaginary landscapes replete with animals and dense vegetation. Accompanying the kimono designs are one to two lines of text. In some instances, it could describe the pattern and dictate to the clothier certain techniques or tools that could best render an elaborate design. In other instances, the text could be snippets of poetry whose themes were relayed in the designs. This opening shows a kimono design with auspicious plants associated with the four seasons.
Kimono pattern books, or hinagatabon, were working documents heavily used as cheap and quick references of the latest designs. Yet this was likely not their only appeal. The subtle play between poem and image was a source of entertainment for period viewers wishing to convey their sophistication. And certainly, there was something to be gained by perusing the newest styles for the year and staying current in the fast-moving world of fashion. Tastes changed quickly, and elaborate designs were often the subject of sumptuary regulations sporadically issued to rein in townspeople’s extravagant dress.
This particular volume also presents several of the interesting problems contemporary bibliographers must address when working with Japanese books. The title Hīnagata Amanohashidate appears on the cover slip (daisen), is repeated in the preface of the book, and the character ama is included in the short-form title along the fore-edge (hashira). However, the colophon suggests the title is Hinagata yado no ume (Pattern Book: The Plum Trees of Our Home). Comparison to a digitized copy of Hīnagata Amanohashidate confirms its match to the Tress copy. What appears likely to have occured here is that a colophon page from another book was inserted to create a more desirable product for the secondary market.
Hillier, Jack. The Art of the Japanese Book. Vol. 1. 2 vols. London: Sotheby’s, 1987.
Siffert, Betty Y. “‘Hinagata Bon’: The Art Institute of Chicago Collection of Kimono Pattern Books.” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 18, no. 1 (1992): 86–103.
Simmons, Pauline. “Artist Designers of the Tokugawa Period.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 14, no. 6 (1956): 133–48.
In the Meiji era, colorful pattern books were published as reference for the textile and garment industry and other crafts such as ceramics and lacquerware. These evolved from the black and white kosode pattern books (hinagata-bon) of the Edo period. The popularity of the new design books (zuancho) also gave rise to art education devoted to pattern art (zuan) and a new design profession (zuanka) (Johnson 7, 11).
The periodicals and artist books of zuan expanded the role of publications in the textile industry and also helped foster a collaborative design community. With lavishly printed zuancho published by Unsōdō and Unkindō, many artists sought to elevate pattern design as an art form, while still serving the industry’s growing clientele (Johnson 11-13).
This small selection of zuan from the Tress Collection demonstrates how the dual purpose of these books extended the intended audience, contributed to the modern art movement, and also adapted pattern reference into a form of storytelling.
Although zuan is presently regarded as a publishing phenomenon rather than an art movement, due to the great variety of styles (Johnson 15), it finds footing within an existing movement, as an extension of Rinpa. While the influence of Art Nouveau is readily apparent in much of the artwork, the prevailing school of design philosophy, put forth by Kamisaka Sekka, sought to promote modern design by further stylizing the motifs derived from Rinpa, along with references to classical Japanese themes and literature (Sekka, Ikeda, Wood).
Despite the high quality of the periodicals, some were regrettably short lived, such as the pocketable Senshoku zuan by Tsuda Seifū (1904) (fig. 1), published in only four volumes. The diminutive size invites portability and an intimacy with its artwork, such as a trusted notebook. However innovative, the smaller format is rare in this collection of zuan.
Johnson attributes the failure of some journals—from the industry’s perspective—as design ahead of its time (15). If such was the case with Senshoku zuan, which contains abstract work interspersed with traditional motifs, it suggests a publication’s success still depended heavily on the textile manufacturers, regardless of external interest.
Yet a journal such as this may have been worth the risk, for the artist if not the publisher. Whether a commercial success or failure, the artists involved benefited from activity relevant to the phenomenon: a community of peers who encouraged collaboration between artists, publishers, and the teachers and students of a newly formed profession.
Shin bijutsukai (1902-) (fig.2), an example of a long-running periodical, sought additional support from the tourist industry, as evidenced by a number of volumes featuring back covers printed in English (Johnson 23). Edited by Furuya (Furutani) Kōrin over 36 volumes, the journal highlighted popular artists, which presumably added to its wide appeal.
Occasionally pattern designs include accents evocative of sashiko (embroidery used in both the reinforcement and decoration of kimono) or shibori (tie-dye) (Fig. 3, 4, 5). Their incorporation reflects the original intention of these books, as reference for the industry. Notable is the rarer depiction of nature created from the exaggeration and further abstraction of these elements, resembling dot matrix structure, such as in the rendering of snow in Shiki nishiki (Brocade of the four seasons) (1903) (fig. 6) by Tamamura Shimohiro.
This self-referential inspiration translates the industry’s related crafts into new design elements that stand on their own. Likewise, these examples of design and composition across the collection demonstrate zuan’s contribution to the development of modern art, with the artists continually pulling Rinpa toward abstraction.
Elaborate artist’s books featured the work of a single designer or painter, often published as a limited set, or a single volume. Though many of Sekka’s publications and edited journals include traditional zuan, books such as Chigusa (A Thousand Grasses/All Kinds of Things) (1903) (fig. 7) and Momoyogusa (A World of Things) (1909) showcase his work as art prints (Andreas 127), wholly transcending the notion of pattern as textile reference only. Each page is devoted to a single work, wherein pattern and color serve the narrative, and at the same time inform the complementary sequence of facing images.
In Kōrin moyō (1907) (fig. 8), Furuya (Furutani) Kōrin, who studied with Sekka, demonstrates his talent for design and mastery of Rinpa motifs. He includes 2-3 images per spread, often devoting a tertiary horizontal space for a complementary two-toned pattern. While not unusual for zuancho to combine numerous designs on a page, Kōrin utilizes the space to his advantage and ours. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by dense pattern upon pattern, the thoughtfully composed pages help slow the pace, allowing the reader to recognize subtle relationships between the images of nature.
In a similar vein, Kaigai Tennen’s Tennen hyakkaku (One Hundred Cranes) (1900), Sekka’s Chō senshu (One Thousand Butterflies) (1904), and Kōrin’s Matsu zukushi (Pine Trees) (1905) present reflective variations upon a theme, each of which can be interpreted as either textile reference or as narrative. For example, Chō senshu (fig. 9) could easily be read as a children’s picture book, while Matsu zukushi could be read in the context of a reader’s knowledge of poetry devoted to the pine.
The dual nature of the artists’ books recalls the unique reading experience of the earliest example of hinagata-bon. Published in 1666, On-hinagata combined kosode designs with visual references to classical literature, poetry, and puns. The reader consumed the book as both fashion and literary puzzle (Saunders 52, 55).
We witness a similar sense of play, experimentation and adaptation in Arthur Tress’s photographs from the series Theoretical Models (1980-84) (Fig. 10). These abstract compositions—that at first sight appear to be intricately patterned, geometric shapes—ultimately reveal common objects refracting and reflecting light, through which spray-painting creates shadows upon shadow. Again, we are invited into another of Tress’s imaginary worlds, with no less a story than we find in his narrative work.
I find that Tress’s own words about this body of work equally befit the contemplative experience of paging through his collected books of zuan: “… perhaps I want my photos to reach with a certain molecular cool surprise, to enter the mind of the viewer and pass through him—so he both loses and retains himself in the seeing until an eventual dissipation leaves him both changed and unchanged” (qtd in Rian).
 With no table of contents for contributing artists, there is speculation that all images in the journal were created by F. Kōrin alone (Johnson 23).