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Stenciled warps and wefts (meisen)

In the twentieth century, avant garde Japanese artists were drawn to the modern art movement developing in Europe. Many traveled to Europe to partake in the movement, and illustrated art books and magazines were also available to send back for those who could not travel abroad. German expressionism, often characterized by strong angles, shadows and strongly contrasting colors, found a ready audience among Japanese artists.

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The cheek-by-jowl houses of old Europe with their differing sizes and rooftops offered ready subject matter for expressionists.  Below are two expressionist works featuring rooftops, but quite a few others by well known artists of the period could also have been used as examples.   Works such as these would have been excellent sources for kimono designers looking for novel and arresting patterns to tempt buyers with.  In this kimono, the structures are all clearly European, not Japanese, and would have seemed fresh and exotic.

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Below, a 1918 painting of the Krumau Crescent by Egon Shiele deftly highlighting the asymmetrical angles of the structures.

Shiele 1918







This woodcut of a church by Lionel Feininger, also dated 1918, has been so stripped down to its essential shapes that it is almost abstract. The German expressionist movement grew out of the despair of World War I, and much of the work has undertones of tension and foreboding. All of that has been removed from the kimono design. It retains the sharp angles and the quaint jostling buildings, but is purely joyful.

Feininger Church 1918