LaFarge John


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John LaFarge John  ジョン・ラファージ 
(March 31, 1835 – November 14, 1910)

taken in 1902

- quote
an American painter, muralist, stained glass window maker, decorator, and writer.

... He was a pioneer in the study of Japanese art, the influence of which is seen in his work.
During his life, LaFarge maintained a studio at 51 West 10th Street in Greenwich Village, which now is part of the site of Eugene Lang College at the New School University.

LaFarge made extensive travels in Asia and the South Pacific, which inspired his painting. He visited Japan in 1886, and the South Seas in 1890 and 1891, in particular spending time and absorbing the culture of Tahiti.
Henry Adams accompanied him on these trips as a travel companion.

... La Farge experimented with color problems, especially in the medium of stained glass.

- His Work about Japan
An Artist's Letters from Japan (New York, 1897)
Hokusai: a talk about Japanese painting (New York, 1897)

© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


To Henry Adams, Esq.
My Dear Adams: Without you I should not have seen the place, without you I should not have seen the things of which these notes are impressions. If anything worth repeating has been said by me in these letters, it has probably come from you, or has been suggested by being with you—perhaps even in the way of contradiction. And you may be amused by the lighter talk of the artist that merely describes appearances, or covers them with a tissue of dreams. And you alone will know how much has been withheld that might have been indiscreetly said.
If only we had found Nirvana—but he was right who warned us that we were late in this season of the world.
J. L. F.

And you too, Okakura San: I wish to put your name before these notes, written at the time when I first met you, because the memories of your talks are connected with my liking of your country and of its story, and because for a time you were Japan to me. I hope, too, that some thoughts of yours will be detected in what I write, as a stream runs through grass — hidden, perhaps, but always there. We are separated by many things besides distance, but you know that the blossoms scattered by the waters of the torrent shall meet at its end.

- - - - - CONTENTS
An Artist's Letters from Japan
From Tokio to Nikko
The Shrines of Iyéyasŭ and Iyémitsŭ in the Holy Mountain of Nikko
Tao: The Way
Japanese Architecture
Sketching.—The Flutes of Iyéyasŭ
Sketching.—The Pagoda in Rain
From Nikko to Kamakura
Nikko to Yokohama
A Japanese Day.—From Kioto to Gifu
From Kambara to Miyanoshita—A Letter from a Kago
Postscript / Appendix

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An Artist's Letters From Japan, by John La Farge

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Nikko, August 2.

I fear that of all my description the refrain of the words gold and bronze will be all that you will retain. How can I have any confidence in my account of anything so alien, whose analysis involves the necessary misuse of our terms, based upon another past in art?—for words in such cases are only explanations or easy mnemonics of a previous sight. But soon I shall have photographs to send, and if I can summon courage for work, in this extreme heat and moisture, I shall make some drawings. But again, these would not give the essential reasons for things being as they are; and whatever strange beauties would be noted, they might appear to have happened, if I may so say, and not to have grown of necessity. It is so difficult for our average way of accepting things to think of what is called architecture without expecting structures of stone—something solid and evidently time-defying.

And yet, if architecture represents the needs of living of a people, the differences that we see here will have the same reasonableness that other devices show elsewhere. The extreme heat, the sudden torrents of rain, will explain the far-projecting and curved roofs, the galleries and verandas, the arrangements for opening or closing the sides of buildings by sliding screens, which allow an adjustment to the heat or the damp. But weightier reasons than all these must have directed in the construction of such great buildings as the temples, and I think [Pg 120] that, putting aside important race influences, these sufficient reasons will be found in the volcanic nature of Japan and its frequent earthquakes. Whatever was to be built must have had to meet these difficult problems: how successfully in the past is shown by a persistence of their buildings which to us seems extraordinary, for many of them are lasting yet in integrity for now over a thousand years.

I speak of the influences of race, because it is evident that very many traditions, prejudices, and symbolic meanings are built into these forms, and that many of them must have come through the teachings of China. Everywhere the higher architecture, embodied in shrines and temples, is based on some ideal needs, and not essentially upon necessities; is, in fact, a record or expression of a religious idea or mystery. In this case I am too profoundly ignorant, as most of us are, to work out origins; but my mind feels the suggestion of an indefinite past, that once had meanings and teachings, just as my eye recognizes in the shape of the massive temples the image of a sacred box, or ark, once to be carried from place to place. There is, perhaps, in this direction a line of study for the men to come.

Like all true art, the architecture of Japan has found in the necessities imposed upon it the motives for realizing beauty, and has adorned the means by which it has conquered the difficulties to be surmounted. Hence no foundations, which would compromise the super-imposed building by making it participate in the shock given to its base. Hence solid pedestals, if I may so call them, or great bases, upon which are placed only, not built in, the posts which support the edifice, leaving a space between this base and the horizontal beams or floors of the building. The building is thus rendered elastic, and resumes its place after the trembling of the earthquake, and the [Pg 121] waters of bad weather can escape without flooding any foundations.

The great, heavy, curved roof, far overhanging, weighs down this structure, and keeps it straight. An apparently unreasonable quantity of adjusted timber and beams supports the ceiling and the roof. Complicated, tremendous corbelings, brackets grooved and dovetailed, fill the cornices as with a network; but all these play an important practical part, and keep the whole construction elastic, as their many small divisions spread the shock.

Still more, in such a building as the charming pagoda at Iyéyasŭ's shrine, which is full one hundred feet high, slight-looking and lithe, the great beam or mast which makes its center does not support from the base, but is cut off at the foundation; and hence it acts as a sort of pendulum, its great weight below retarding the movement above when the earthquake comes.

I have heard the whisper of a legend saying that the architect who devised this, to correct the errors of a rival and partner, was poisoned in due time, in jealous return. For those were happy times when backbiting among artists took the more manly form of poisoning.

Now besides all this, which gives only the reason for the make of certain parts which together form the unity of a single building, there are other principles before us. The relation of man to nature, so peculiarly made out in the Japanese beliefs, is made significant, symbolized, or typified through the manner in which these buildings are disposed. A temple is not a single unity, as with us, its own beginning and end. A temple is an arrangement of shrines and buildings meaningly placed, often, as here, in mountains—a word synonymous with temples; each shrine a statement of some divine attribute, and all these buildings spread with infinite art over large spaces, open, or inclosed by trees and rocks. The buildings are but [Pg 122] parts of a whole. They are enveloped by nature, the principle and the adornment of the subtle or mysterious meaning which links them all together.

Besides all this is the religious symbolism underlying or accompanying all, as once with us, of which I know too little to speak, but which can be felt and occasionally detected because of many repetitions. But this would carry me beyond my limits; and, indeed, we find it very difficult to obtain any more information from our instructors, whether they do not know securely, or whether they reserve it for better minds and worthier apprehensions. Nor do I object to this Oriental secrecy or mystery, as it adds the charm of the veil, which is often needed.

And I should wish that soon some one might undertake to make out in full the harmony of proportions which has presided over these buildings. It is evident that a delicate and probably minute system of relations, under the appearance of fantasy, produces here the sense of unity that alone makes one secure of permanent enjoyment. My information on the subject is fragmentary: I know that the elegant columns are in a set relation to the openings of the temple; that the shape of these same columns is in another relation to their exquisite details; that the rafters play an important part, determining the first departure. I have seen carpenter's drawings, with manners of setting out work and measurements, and I feel that there is only a study to carry out.

Nor is my wish mere curiosity, or the interest of the antiquarian. What we need to-day is belief and confidence in similar methods, without which there is nothing for ourselves but a haphazard success; no connection with the eternal and inevitable past, and none with a future, which may change our materials, but will never change our human need for harmony and order.

You have heard of the little gardens, and of their exquisite [Pg 123] details, in which the Japanese makes an epitome of nature, arranged as if for one of his microscopic jewels of metals, ivory, or lacquer.

Here in our own garden there would seem no call for an artificial nature. The mountain slope on which we live must have always been beautiful of itself; but for all that, our garden—that is to say, the space about our landlord's house and our own—has been treated with extreme care. Our inclosure is framed towards the great temple groves, and the great mountains behind them, by a high wall of rock, over which, at a corner edged with moss, rolls a torrent, making a waterfall that breaks three times. The pool below, edged with iris that grow in the garden sand, is crossed by a bridge of three big flat stones, and empties secretly away. On each side of the fall, planted in the rock wall, stands a thick-set paulownia, with great steady leaves, and bending towards it a willow, whose branches drop far below itself and swing perpetually in the draught of the waterfall. Bunches of pink azalea grow in the hollows of the rocks, and their reflections redden the eddies of the pool. Steps which seem natural lead up the wall of rock; old pines grow against it, and our feet pass through their uppermost branches. On the top is planted a monumental stone, and from there a little path runs along, leading nowhere nowadays, as far as I can make out. I am right in calling this mass of rock, which is a spur of the mountain's slope, a wall; for I look down from its top to the next inclosure far below, now overgrown and wild. What is natural and what was made by man has become so blended together, or has always been so, that I can choose to look at it as my mood may be, and feel the repose of nature or enjoy the disposing choice of art.

Where the little bridge crosses over, and where mossy rocks dip down a little to allow a passage, edged by a maple and a pine, I look over across the hidden road to a [Pg 124] deserted yashiki, with one blasted tree, all overgrown with green and melting into distances of trees which, tier behind tier, reach to a little conical hill, that is divided and subdivided by sheets of mist at every change of heat and damp, so that I feel half as if I knew its forms perfectly—half as if I could never get them all by heart.

In the sand of our little garden are set out clumps of flowers, chrysanthemum mostly, and occasionally iris and azalea; and the two houses make its other two sides. The priest's house, an old one, with large thatched roof projecting in front and supported there by posts covered with creepers, is nearer the water. I see the little priest with his young neophyte curled on the mats in the big front room whose whole face is open; while in a break, or wing, is the opening to the practical housekeeper side of the dwelling.

Our own house, which faces south like the priest's, completes the square, as I said. It is edged on the outside by a small plantation of trees with no character, that stretch away to the back road and to a wall terracing a higher ground behind. There a wide space overgrown with bushes and herbage, that cover former care and beauty, spreads out indefinitely toward conical hills hot in the sun, behind which rises the great volcanic slope of Nio-ho. A little temple shrine, red, white, and gold, stands in this heat of sunlight and makes cooler yet the violets and tender greens of the great slopes. This is to the north. When I look toward the west I see broad spaces broken up by trees, and the corner of Iyéyasŭ's temple wall half hidden by the gigantic cedars, and as I write, late in the afternoon, the blue peak of Nan-tai-san rounded off like a globe by the yellow mist.

The garden, embosomed in this vastness of nature, feels small, as though it were meant to be so. Every part is on a small scale, and needs few hands to keep [Pg 125] things in order. We have a little fountain in the middle of the garden, which gives the water for our bath, and sends a noisy stream rolling through the wooden trough of the wash-room. The fountain is made by a bucket placed upon two big stones, set in a basin, along whose edge grow the iris, still in bloom. A hidden pipe fills the bucket, and a long, green bamboo makes a conduit for the water through the wooden side of our house. With another bamboo we tap the water for our bath. In the early morning I sit in the bath-room and paint this little picture through the open side, while A——, upstairs in the veranda, is reading in Dante's "Paradiso," and can see, when he looks up, the great temple roof of the Buddhist Mangwanji.

Occasionally the good lady who takes care of our priest's house during his weeks of service at the temple of Iyémitsŭ salutes me while at my bath, for the heating of which her servant has supplied the charcoal. She is already dressed for the day, and in her black silk robe walks across the garden to dip her toothbrush in the running water of the cascade. Then in a desultory way she trims the plants and breaks off dead leaves, and later the gardener appears and attends to one thing after another, even climbing up into the old pine tree, taking care of it as he does of the sweet-peas; and I recall the Japanese gardener whom I knew at our Exposition of 1876, as I saw him for the last time, stretched on the ground, fanning the opening leaves of some plant that gave him anxiety.

Thus the Japanese garden can be made of very slight materials, and is occasionally reduced to scarcely anything, even to a little sand and a few stones laid out according to a definite ideal of meaning. A reference to nature, a recall of the general principles of all landscapes,—of a foreground, a distance, and a middle distance; [Pg 126] that is to say, a little picture,—is enough. When they cannot deal with the thing itself—when they do, they do it consummately—they have another ideal which is not so much the making of a real thing as the making of a picture of it. Hence the scale can be diminished, without detriment in their eyes, until it becomes lilliputian to ours. All this I take to be an inheritance from China, modified toward simplicity. I do not know to what type our little garden belongs. For they have in their arrangements manners of expressing ideas of association, drawing them from nature itself, or bringing them out by references to tradition or history, so that I am told that they aim to express delicate meanings which a Western imagination can hardly grasp; types, for instance, conveying the ideas of peace and chastity, quiet old age, connubial happiness, and the sweetness of solitude. Does this make you laugh, or does it touch you—or both? I wish I knew more about it, for I am sure that there is much to say.

I have spoken of simplicity. The domestic architecture is as simple, as transitory, as if it symbolized the life of man. You can see it all in the drawings, in the lacquers, and it has recently been treated completely in the charming book of Professor Morse. Within, the Japanese house is simplicity itself; all is framework, and moving screens instead of wall. No accumulations, no bric-à-brac; any lady's drawing-room with us will contain more odds and ends than all that I have yet seen together in Japan. The reserved place of honor, a sort of niche in the wall, the supposed seat of an ideal guest, has upon its bench some choice image on a stand, or a vase with elegant disposal of flowers or plants, and above it the hanging roll with drawing or inscription. Perhaps some other inscription or verse, or a few words on a tablet upon some cross-beam, and perhaps a small folding screen. Otherwise [Pg 127] all works of art are put aside in the fireproof store-house, to be brought out on occasions. The woodwork is as simple as it can be—occasionally, some beautiful joinery; always, when it can be afforded, exquisite workmanship; and, above all, exquisite cleanliness. For there are no beds—only wadded coverlets and the little wooden pillow, which does not disturb the complicated feminine coiffure in the languors of the night. No tables; food is laid on the cleanly mats, in many trays and dishes. No chairs; the same mats that serve for bedstead and table serve for seats with, perhaps, a cushion added.

And this is all the same for all, from emperor's palace to little tradesman's cottage. There is nothing, apparently, but what is necessary, and refinement in disposing of that. The result is sometimes cold and bare. There is the set look of insisting upon an idea—the idea of doing with little: a noble one, certainly; as, for instance, when the emperor's palace at Kioto is adorned merely by the highest care in workmanship and by the names of the artists who painted the screen walls—in solitary contradiction to the splendor and pomp of all absolute rulers, no storehouse for the wasted money of the people, but an example of the economy which should attend the life of the ruler. It is possible that when I return I shall feel still more distaste for the barbarous accumulations in our houses, and recall the far more civilized emptiness persisted in by the more esthetic race.
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- - - - - Read LaFarge about

Utsunomiya Tsuritenjo Jiken 宇都宮 釣天井事件 The Ceiling at Utsunomiya
Tokugawa Iemitsu (Iyémitsŭ) 徳川家光 Third Shogun

. Near Utsunomiya, August 30, 1886 .


A Rishi Calling Up A Storm - Japanese Folk Lore

source and more : www.1st-art-gallery.com

Location: Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA


ジョン ラファージ vs 広重 - LaFarge versus Hiroshige

- source : rokkomiki.exblog.jp


. . . CLICK here for Photos !


. Japanese Aesthetics エスセティクス - Nihon no bigaku 日本の美学 .


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