Kimono
Silk, cotton (lining)
Stenciled warps and wefts (meisen)

What appear to the western eye to be lollipops are likely to be chrysanthemums. In 17th century Japan a new school of artistic thought developed, called the Rinpa School (Rin for Ogata Korin, and ha meaning faction), characterized by simplification and stylization. The elegant chrysanthemum, with its countless tightly packed petals, was famously stripped down to little more than a single circle on a stick, with scant regard for perspective.

In this kimono from the first half of the 20th century, the Rinpa influence is still visible. Although the design is flat, it is interesting to see that the artist has included three different types of shading to hint at dimensionality: vertical stripes, lighter shades of the same color, and swaths of stark contrasting color.

Because the circles come in candy colors, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to wonder whether the artist is, in fact, teasing the viewer. Should one read these as chrysanthemums, redolent of ancient Japanese culture? Or should one read them as lollipops, symbolic of what was, at the time, a bit of novel western culture?

In 2014, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art showed a number of early 20th century kimono in an exhibition entitled Kimono for a Modern Age.  For a link to the LACMA website, click here.  For an article on the exhibition, with a series of photographs, click here.

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