First edition of Kamisaka Sekka’s celebrated butterfly book.more...
‘A colour-printed book of elaborate decor based on the forms of butterflies. All the designs are “patterned”, but some conform to the actual shape of believable butterflies, though there is certainly no intention to be entomologically accurate; but in some, the artist simply used the insects as a theme for variations, distorting and manipulating the butterfly shape unti lit is barely recognizable, often achieving the kind of art nouveau that we associate with some Secession jewellery... Sekka is especially inventive when he allows swarms of butterflies to float over the page, achieving colourful geometric designs, or, in one, amorphous silver shapes outlined in brown, green and yellow, as evocative and irrational as abstracts by Arp’. (Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, p. 976).
The influence of japonisme on Art nouveau is well documented, but less well-known is the reverse influence of fin de siècle Western design on Japanese art. In Cho sensu, Sekka fuses traditional Japanese motifs with European modernism, experienced first hand in his visit to the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901. At the age of 36, Sekka travelled to Europe on behalf of the Kyoto local government to attend the Glasgow Exhibition. He stayed in Europe about six months researching European craft and design before returning to Kyoto where he served as an instructor at the School of Art and Design. ‘Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942) was one of Japan’s leading artists, designers and art instructors. His bold, visually dynamic designs and innovative approach to production made him one of the great visionaries of modern Japanese art and design’ (Kamisaka Sekka: Dawn of modern Japanese Design, 2012)..see full details
This rare and ephemeral booklet comprises one printed page of text followed by 13 full-page diagrams of cherub decorated Western clock faces with Japanese zodiac symbol notations. Each clock face is left blank besides the numerals, presumably for completion in manuscript by the student. It wasn’t until 1872 that the Japanese government officially adopted Western style timekeeping practices, including equal hours that do not vary with the seasons, (and, also the Gregorian calendar). Previously the Japanese had used an (unequal) temporal hour system that varied with the seasons; the daylight hours being longer in summer and shorter in winter. This system was abolished at the start of the, 1868, The Meiji Restoration, an event that restored practical imperial rule to Japan under Emperor Meiji. The Meiji Emperor announced in his 1868 Charter Oath that “Knowledge shall be sought all over the world, and thereby the foundations of imperial rule shall be strengthened.” This modernisation led to the emergence of a western-style clock industry replacing the typical Japanese clock which only had six numbered hours, from 9 to 4, which counted backwards from noon until midnight; (the hour numbers 1 through 3 were not used for religious reasons, being the numbers of strokes that were used by Buddhists to call to prayer). The count ran backwards because the earliest Japanese artificial timekeepers used the burning of incense to count down the time..see full details