By Roger Yorke
“The kimono is one of the pre-eminent artistic mediums of the 20th century,” states Will Heinrich in a June 8, 2022, New York Times review of the MET exhibition Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection. Recent international research on Japanese modernism of the early 20th century has set the stage for a more critical look at one of the most brilliant manifestations of that modernism, what can be referred to as ‘art kimono’ — kimonos that were created as works of art. Sometimes, art kimono such as these were gifted interpretations of traditional motifs and design, while others were brilliant experiments in abstract art. Much of this art kimono experimentation took place in 1920s and 1930s Japan, whose philosophy and works inspired a short-lived but worthy revival in the 1950s.
Below is an excerpt from the chapter “Embellishments” from the book Art Kimono: Aesthetic Revelations of Japan 1905-1960:
In the long and eminent story of the kimono, the technique that the Japanese are so deservedly proud of is the home-grown technique of yuzen resist painting. The invention of the yuzen technique in late 17th century Japan was a momentous occasion in the history of patterned textiles, notwithstanding the fact that the technique was broadly ignored in the world outside of Japan until the second half of the 20th century. For with yuzen, it became possible to express the artist’s wishes in both color and intricacy
on silk or cotton as precisely as on a painting.
This painterly technique received its name from the brilliant inventor, monk-artist Miyazaki Yuzen, in the late 17th century. Some suggest that the impetus for the creation of the technique came about when the Meiji shogunate restricted the use of extravagant clothing of shibori and embroidery shortly prior. Whatever the reason for its invention, it was obvious that yuzen-dyeing — what the author refers to as yuzen painting quickly became popular after its discovery and is arguably the most famous of Japanese dyeing techniques.
Book Title: Art Kimono: Aesthetic Revelations of Japan 1905-1960
Book specifications: 396 pages, 12.5″ x 9.5″, 3kg/7lbs, hardcover, spot varnishing, sewn binding, offset printed. ISBN 978-1-7387609-0-9
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About Yorke Antique Textiles
We have been collecting and dealing vintage and antique world ethnographic textiles for almost forty years, and have a sister website to Yorke Antique Textiles at The Kimono Gallery, which is devoted entirely to kimonos and kimono jackets.
In 2003, we became more interested in focusing on Japanese textiles, especially kimonos. With most of the world’s best ethnographic artworks already heavily collected during the 20th century, it was astonishing to discover that in the 21st century one of the world’s most iconic ethnographic arts – the kimono – would be so little understood and collected. Certainly the vast amount of extant kimonos – in the millions – smoke-screened the fact that among the multitude were a relatively small amount of kimono gems. We have viewed roughly a million kimonos — those kimonos found in price levels three and four in this gallery are the gems of that extensive search.