Download Classic Japanese Wave and Ripple Designs: A Go-to Guide for Japanese Artists from 1903

Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese art may please so many of us, even those of us with lit­tle inter­est in Japan itself, because of the way it inhab­its the realm between rep­re­sen­ta­tion and abstrac­tion. But then, it does­n’t just inhab­it that realm: it has set­tled those bor­der­lands, made them its own, for much longer than most cul­tures have been doing any­thing at all. The space between art, strict­ly defined, and what we now call design has also seen few achieve­ments quite so impres­sive as those made in Japan, going all the way back to the rope mark­ings on the clay ves­sels used by the islands’ Jōmon peo­ple in the 11th cen­tu­ry BC.

Those ancient rope-on-clay mark­ings can eas­i­ly look like pre­de­ces­sors of the “wave pat­terns” still seen in Japan­ese art and design today. Since time almost immemo­r­i­al they have appeared on “swords (both blades and han­dles) and asso­ci­at­ed para­pher­na­lia (known as ‘sword fur­ni­ture’), as well as lac­quer­ware, Net­suke, reli­gious objects, and a host of oth­er items.”

So says the Pub­lic Domain Review, which has fea­tured a series of three books full of ele­gant wave and rip­ple designs orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1903 and now avail­able to down­load free at the Inter­net Archive (vol­ume onevol­ume twovol­ume three).

Called Hamon­shū, the books were pro­duced by the artist Mori Yuzan, “about whom not a lot is known,” adds the Pub­lic Domain review, “apart from that he hailed from Kyoto, worked in the Nihon­ga style” — or the “Japan­ese paint­ing” style of Japan­ese paint­ing, which emerged dur­ing the Mei­ji peri­od, a time of rapid West­ern­iza­tion in Japan.

He “died in 1917. The works would have act­ed as a kind of go-to guide for Japan­ese crafts­men look­ing to adorn their wares with wave and rip­ple pat­terns.” Though they do con­tain text, they require no knowl­edge of the Japan­ese lan­guage to appre­ci­ate the many illus­tra­tions they present.

Tak­en togeth­er, Mori’s books offer a com­plete spec­trum from tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese-style rep­re­sen­ta­tion — espe­cial­ly of land, water, moun­tains, sky, and oth­er nat­ur­al ele­ments — to a taste of the infi­nite vari­ety of abstract pat­terns that result. Such imagery remains preva­lent in Japan more than a cen­tu­ry after the pub­li­ca­tion of Hamon­shū, as any vis­i­tor to Japan today will see.

But now that the Inter­net Archive has made the books freely avail­able online (vol­ume onevol­ume twovol­ume three), they’ll sure­ly inspire work not just between rep­re­sen­ta­tion and abstrac­tion as well as between art and design, but between Japan­ese aes­thet­ics and those of every oth­er cul­ture in the world as well.

via Pub­lic Domain Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Japan­ese Wood­work­ing Mas­ters Cre­ate Ele­gant & Elab­o­rate Geo­met­ric Pat­terns with Wood

Mes­mer­iz­ing GIFs Illus­trate the Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery — All Done With­out Screws, Nails, or Glue

Down­load 2,500 Beau­ti­ful Wood­block Prints and Draw­ings by Japan­ese Mas­ters (1600–1915)

1,000+ His­toric Japan­ese Illus­trat­ed Books Dig­i­tized & Put Online by the Smith­son­ian: From the Edo & Meji Eras (1600–1912)

The Art of Col­lo­type: See a Near Extinct Print­ing Tech­nique, as Lov­ing­ly Prac­ticed by a Japan­ese Mas­ter Crafts­man

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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