Friday, March 21, 2008

A fish for Good Friday

Study after 'A Trout Rising'
by Joseph Crawhall (Scottish; 1861-1913), Hunterian Museum, Glasgow
original - watercolour on line 28.2" x 39.0"
study - coloured pencils on Saunders Waterford 10" x 14"

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is another of my studies for my Japanese Art Project and, as it's Good Friday today, I thought it might be appropriate to have a fish as an image.

In this instance, it's a study of a work by a Scottish artist called Joseph Crawhall who was himself influenced by Japanese Art. This is what the Hunterian Museum has to say about the original work.
As a watercolour artist, Crawhall’s strength lay in depicting animals and birds. His decorative technique, as seen in this work in the brush strokes and the use of pure colour on linen, was influenced greatly by the Japanese prints that were popular during the 1880s and 1890s.
Hunterian Museum - A Trout Rising, Joseph Crawhall
You can see some more of his work at the Hunterian here and he also has work in the Burrell Collection, also in Glasgow.

What I particularly like about the original is the great use of the brush in mark-making and the stunning use of very limited amounts of colour on a very neutral background. What's interesting in studying the work of those influenced by Japanese art is to find out what they took from the art and then reused in their own projects.

What I'm taking away from this study is the way in which crispness of edges brings these into focus just as 'washiness' and soft edges suggest depth and recession and objects within our peripheral vision. Trying to emulate really good watercolour work and brushwork is not easy! Soft edges are also not a big feature of ukiyo-e and I'm thinking I maybe need to look a bit more at Japanese watercolours.

I came across this fish in a book I bought last Friday. It's called Japonisme - Cultural Crossings between Japan and the West, Lionel Lambourne, Phaidon Press. Lionel Lambourne OBE is the former Head of Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum (1986-1993) and a curator. When looking him up I came across a rather curious blog which is all about Quotes about Japan - which highlight some from this book.

I've only skimmed the book so far - but what I've seen and read suggests that this a very erudite and interesting book by a scholar who has done a lot of research, selected a number of images not seen in other books and writes extremely well. I can't do better than quote the publishers precis.

After 1858 when full trade was resumed, a wave of 'Japanomania' swept across Europe and America. The 1862 'Great Exhibition' in London was the first to display a wide range of Japanese goods in the west. Visited by hundreds of thousands of people, the prints, ceramics and lacquer work became the height of fashion.

After an introduction telling the story of the first contacts, the long isolation and the events leading to the renewal of free trade in Japan, he turns to capture the excitement in Europe as artists – led by Whistler and the Impressionists – discovered Japanese prints and artefacts, and began to incorporate their influence. The story spreads far beyond fine art to follow this creative mania into the decorative arts, interior design, furnishings, fashion accessories and, in turn, literature and theatre.

With his inimitable style and his rich store of well-chosen anecdotes, the author brings peculiar personalities to life and conveys a vivid impression of the enthusiasm that Japonisme generated. Chapters are devoted to travel, Japonisme in America, landscape and gardens, and even the curious subject of ghosts.

The visual impact alone of Japan on the West was enormous, as is expressed wonderfully in the rich and varied selection of 250 illustrations. These assimilate many original Japanese prints and artefacts juxtaposed with the works they directly inspired, as well as a vast spectrum of influences on the decorative arts, posters, advertisements, book illustrations, fashion, cartoons, photography, gardens and architecture.

Particular highlights come in:
  • Chapter 2 - Japan and the Painters - focuses on Whistler, Tissot, Degas, Cassatt, Van Gogh
  • Chapter 3 - The Poster and the Japanese Print - focuses on Bonnard, Toulouse Lautrec and Beardsley
Other artists covered in other chapters include Monet, Klimt, Manet, Gauguin, Arthur Wesley Dow and architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

[Note: I'm continuing to fight my broadband connection/modem router which continues to be very problematical this week plus the 'lurgy' which continues to linger and linger........]



  1. Beautiful art piece. I love the decorative elements in the piece. The book sounds interesting - I'll check it out.

  2. Katherine, at first I thought this study was a watercolour. It is so beautiful. What a wonderful discover is the work of Joseph Crawhall. Thank you.

    My only problem is that I can't get the site you linked to to open images. It opens the reference you used through your link but I can't get any of the other images up. Frustration, because I'm dying to see more of Crawhall's work.

    We were both painting fish on Good Friday! It's taken me a while to get back to your Japanese project but now I'm obsessed. I would LOVE the book you've just reviewed.

  3. Now first off I can't claim any ownership of the design of this piece - that's all down to Mr Crawhall, I was just doing it to learn something about how it works!

    Robyn - it may be that you were on the Hunterian page - in which case there are very few images - although it does tell you about other work he did. The one with the best images is the Burrell Collection. Also check out his wonderful duck on Wikipedia. I'm sure there must be more if work around on the internet.

  4. Great, thank you I see the images on the Burrell Collection. He has a lovely sense of humour, doesn't he, Crawhall. And I see he can teach me a lot about painting pigeons too.

  5. Yes, this is just exquisite, Katherine. It makes me very happy to look at it.

  6. This is just beautiful. A very fishy fish. :) Thanks for sharing the information.


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