Japonisme Database

BSBADM403A Develop and use complex databases

In our last semester we were required to create a database using MS Access.

The database project contained 20 indexed records for various types of library resources.  We were required to source and index these items ourselves. 

I chose to index monograph chapters, journal articles and web based items.  We were required to physically source items and provide evidence of the physical items for assessment (e.g. photo copies of monograph chapters used as records for the database.)

cover image: 
Lambourne, Lionel. Japonisme : cultural crossings between Japan and the West, New York : Phaidon, 2005 : 52-68. 

artist :
Kitagawa Utamaro [Fude no Ayamaru; Toyoaki]
(b 1753; d Edo [now Tokyo], 1806).

We were able to choose a subject for the project database which made it interesting for me to indulge my passion for the masters of Japanese Ukiyo-e (Floating world) prints.

We were given a WEA scenario and required to edit it according to our topic.
I sourced most of my monographs from the charming Haymarket Public Library, Sydney.  It is a heritage building and has a niche collection of rare books on Oriental prints that I would love to own and an old world elevator with carpet, mirrors and brass fittings.  The brilliant Sue, on the desk, made me at home and went out of her way to get books in for me.  I photocopied the chapters I needed to index and submitted them for assessment.    

Each item required an Abstract to be written in our own words.


Japonisme :  The Effect of Japanese Art on European Art Styles
WEA Sydney is a non-profit community-based adult education organisation providing short courses that range from humanities, languages, arts, sociology and popular science to computer, business and vocational training. The course delivery is supported by a library which is open to all enrolled students.

A major issue for students is locating resources that are not easily found through a search of the library catalogue.

The library has been asked to select suitable resources, index them and store the records in an Access database.  The following requirements were established for the database:
Database Requirements (parameters)
The main table in the database must contain a record for each resource selected. Each record should be divided into specific fields based on the criteria described below.
Each resource should be selected and categorised according to one of the designated aspects of the topic. This aspect should also be a specific field in the database to allow records to be grouped according to the aspect.
Material must be retrievable via author, title, source information, material type and when published. They must also be retrievable by subject (see below).
Material should be retrievable by controlled subject terms (descriptors) selected from the GETTY Research Institute thesaurus, web-based thesaurus containing an excellent range of controlled vocabulary terms suitable for the specific subject area of Japanese art.  
Where necessary uncontrolled (natural language keywords) subject terms may be added to complement the descriptors, but only if an important search term is not available in the thesaurus. These natural language subject search terms must be recorded in a separate field.
The database must include a separate list of all descriptors selected and used from the GETTY Research Institute thesaurus. This must be stored as a second table in the database. The descriptor list should include any useful notes on scope, usage or meaning of any selected terms to help users understand the meaning and usage of terms from the thesaurus.
§  Each record must include an abstract which should describe and summarise the information each resource contains, and should be between 50 and 200 words long.
§  Three different types of resources must be included in the database; chapters in monographs, web pages and journal articles.

image: Katsushika, Hokusai, 1760-1849. 'bellflower and dragonfly'. 

Material selection criteria

The following factors were taken into consideration when material was selected for inclusion in the database.

1. Material type
Material in the database is drawn from a number of sources in order to offer a diversity of content and suitable information.  There sources are:

§   Monograph chapters: (MON)
These have been taken from carefully selected monographs which are located in the WEA library.
Bibliographic information is to be referenced in the abstract. 

§  Journal articles: (ART)
These have been taken from appropriate journals, bulletins or museum magazines from online databases. 
All resources in this category have been retrieved via a search of an indexing database such as ProQuest – Academic Research Library, Art Full Text database, Trove and Oxford Art Online.
Bibliographic information is to be referenced in the abstract.

§  Web page articles: (WEB)
These are either a web page article or a section from a web site.  This category includes museum or education websites or the websites of reputable professional organisations.  Such web articles or sections should have stable URL’s with a current copyright date of 2010. 
All resources in this category may be accessed directly by entry of the URL into a web browser.  Articles located via an archive database are categorised as journal articles if they cannot be accessed directly by entry of the URL into a browser.            
Bibliographic information is to be referenced in the abstract.

2. Subject selection criteria

The topic ‘Japonisme’ has been divided into three aspects or sub-topics, which will act as the selection criteria for the 20 indexed items.

§          History
This aspect includes historical information about the influence of Japanese artists on European art styles; the first major impact of Japanese artists on the Impressionists and Post Impressionists of Europe.  Also indexed in this aspect are resources relating to the effect of these techniques on European artists (1860-1900).    
§          Artists
This aspect includes biographical information about major Japanese artists who influenced their own ‘schools’ in the Edo period (1600-1868) of Japanese art, including, crossover artists who also impacted on European literature styles.
In this aspect, examples of major works by Japanese artists will be indexed separately. 

§          Techniques
This aspect includes information about the techniques, subjects and composition of the relevant ‘schools’ of ‘Japonisme’ during the Edo period (1600-1868). 
Each record has been allocated one of the above aspects, which will allow database users to group together resources according to aspect.

    Analyse and describe information materials CULLB505B/
    Develop and use complex databases BSBADM403A

Indexed Journal Articles and Web Resources


At time of publication, Alan Priest, the author of this journal article was Curator of Far Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The introduction states: "The Kano family gave its name to a school of Japanese painting that for almost two centuries was the largest and most influential of all the schools." 

The traditional founder of the Kano school was Kano Masanobu (I434-1530), chief court painter for the shogun.  His son Motonobu (1476-1559), married a daughter of the Tosa school, Mitsunobu (c.1430-c.1521), the Emperor's chief court painter of the day. The two schools of painting 'married' where the Tosa school's aristocratic subject matter with its gold and colour became elements of the Kano school. The most prominent artist of this 'gold' phase was Kano Eitoku (I543-I590), who was chief court painter to Hideyoshi who came to power in 1582.  Examples of Kano school paintings still exist in Japanese palaces and temples.
"The state reception rooms of Nijo castle (existing) follow one upon the other, all gold backgrounds emphasizing particular themes-huge stark pine trees, bamboos, willows, paeonies (surely one prefers the spelling paeony to peony for these noble flowers), egrets, pheasants and lesser birds, tigers (and surely if one speaks of a pride of lions one should speak of an ecstasy of tigers). So it goes on."

Even today, many Japanese do not care for publicity and its dangers so many paintings are unsigned or carry an alias.  Two small screens, "a small pictorial poem of autumn", acquired by the Metropolitan in 1958 are discussed and illustrated in this article and carry the seal of Kano Sanraku (1559-1635).  The screens appear in the 'Kokka' (first pub.1889), the first art magazine published in the Orient  where they are titled "autumn millet" screens.  Please note the delightful birds, a detail from the screens, that are "long-tailed flycatchers" (p.105).                                         

This article is an illustrated history of the Ukiyo-e woodblock print from the beginning of the Tosa school around 1608 that spanned more than three centuries.  It developed as a bourgeoisie form of cultural expression and lifestyle that is unique in the world.  The Japanese novelist, Asai Ryoi provided a definition of the elegant world of ukiyo Japan in his novel, 'Tales of the Floating World' (Ukiyo-monogatari, 1661): "Living only for the moment, savouring the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves, singing songs, loving sake, women and poetry, letting oneself drift, buoyant and carefree, like a gourd carried along with the river current."  Katsushika Hokusai, "the one obsessed with painting" changed the emphasis from personal portraiture to a depiction of nature and began creating landscapes in the spirit of ancient Japanese art with "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji".   Within a decade, Hokusai was to be surpassed as a landscape painter by Ando Hiroshige.  Unbeknown to their creators, ukiyo-e had a profound influence on modern Western painting.  Van Gogh, in the two examples shown, paid homage to Hiroshige by the imitation of his prints in oil paintings.
From the Home page of this web site please visit: Types of prints ; Classical Japanese poster art ; Making woodblock prints

Chushingura Theatre Prints


This article provides a history of Japanese theatre and the ukiyo-e artists who made prints to 'advertise' the plays and actors of kabuki.  The first kabuki performances of the 'Kanadehon chūshingura' where in Edo in 1749.  'Kanadehon' means "Japanese syllabary copybook" (kana) and   'chūshingura', the "treasury of loyal retainers."  The title is meant to imply that the deeds of so-called loyal retainers should be emulated or copied.

The story is well known in the West as the story of the "forty-seven ronin," or masterless samurai. The play was based on an actual incident that began in the spring of 1701 inside the shogun's castle in Edo.  The resulting attack on the castle by a provincial Lord forms the core of a tradition of dramatic works or 'Kanadehon chūshingura'.  The preface illustration is titled 'Kanadehon chūshingura, act II' (1806), an example of the genre by the master printmaker, Katsushika Hokusai.       
Notes: p. 41-43

 Vincent Van Gogh and Japonisme


Van Gogh (1853 - 1890) was an avid collector, lover and student of the Japanese Ukiyo-e ( floating world ) woodblock print. This journal essay is delivered in two parts; Van Gogh's collecting of Japanese prints and images of Japan : 83-88 ; Van Gogh's collecting of "Japan" in the Arles painting of flowering trees : 89-107.  Van Gogh collected techniques and images from Japanese art.  His orchard series painted in Arles including, "Pear Tree in Blossom" and "Pink Peach Trees" (Sovenir de Mauve) are examined for the motif of blooming orchards that he used and their relation to the themes found in Japanese prints.  In his  painting, "Japonaiserie: Flowering Plum Tree", Van Gogh directly copied the tree in Utagawa Hiroshige's "The Plum Tree House at Kameido."   He traced the image to learn how to paint lines in the Japanese style and to learn their method of composition.  Also included are prints from some of the Japanese artists to influence Van Gogh; Utagawa Kunisada and Utagawa Yoshitora.  All prints are shown in black-and-white but should be viewed in colour for full impact.                                                           
Bibliography: p. 112-114.

Japanese Warrior Prints


This is a journal book review of  ''Japanese Warrior Prints : 1645-1905" by James King and Yuriko Iwakiri.  It is included for an excellent overview of the history of the musha-e (warrior) print.  A classic example is illustrated, "Zhuang Shi Xinchi Slaying a Tiger in the Mountains" by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865).  The musha-e print gained popularity in Japan with the appearance of  'reading books'  by Hokusai (1760–1849) such as "Tales of the Water Margin".  An illustrated version of  Robin Hood type stories that appealed to the Japanese reader due to their somewhat subversive topic about bands of outlaws. The main part of the book is a detailed catalogue of 220 prints reproduced in full colour to an excellent standard and accompanied by a detailed explanation of the subject matter of each print.

Notes on Hokusai’s Prints


This journal contains a biographic article on Hokusai (1760-1849); The Old Man Mad About Painting : 5-6 ; and an essay on technique; Notes on Hokusai's Wood -block Prints : 7-8.  The reminder of the article: 9-51, is included for the student and intended as a gallery of the master's prints, some of which are a delight in colour. 
On pages: 40-41 is a reproduction of "The Great Wave of Kanagawa" which has become an iconic image in the western world and familiar to many people, even  those who don't know the artist will have seen and appreciated the image.  The image is said to have inspired Claude Debussy to write the 'tone poem', 'La Mer'.  Hokusai would recreate and adapt the "Great Wave" many times again from it's first incarnation as shown here from "The Thirty-six Views of Fuji"; an earlier and separate volume to "The One Hundred Views."
"Our feelings are absorbed by the sweep of the enormous wave, we enter into its upswelling movement, we feel the tension between its heave and the force of gravity, and as the crest breaks into foam, we feel that we ourselves are stretching angry claws against the alien objects beneath us." Herbert Read, The Meaning of Art, 1933.
Bibliography: p 48.

Catfish Prints


In Japanese mythology, there is a giant subterranean catfish known as the 'namazu' and his underground movements cause earthquakes. This authoritive academic essay details the destructive earthquake that devastated Edo (now Tokoyo) in November, 1855 and it's aftermath.  The people of Edo did not view the earthquake as a random event.  Other recent earthquakes and recent political events, especially the visits of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853-54 were considered an act of 'yonaoshi' or 'world rectification.'  The Ansei Earthquake literally shook up a society that had grown complacent, imbalanced, and sick.  Several weeks after the event, earthquake-related prints were on the market, the majority of which featured images of giant catfish.  Catfish prints that include visual elements and text are known as namazu-e, with "e" meaning picture.  Extensive and detailed information is provided on other Japanese earthquakes of the period, their social impact and the mythology surrounding the namazu.  
Illustrated Bibliographic end notes:  p. 1072-1078

Further Reading
A history of Japanese colour-prints

Von Seidlitz, W. A history of Japanese colour - prints, Philadelphia : J. B. Lippincott Co., 1910.