Haniwa: As Shown in Four American Museums, 1960

Haniwa: As Shown in Four American Museums, 1960

Haniwa: As Shown in Four American Museums, 1960

Haniwa: As Shown in Four American Museums, 1960

Excerpt

The dizzying advance of modern civilization seems to inspire in people a longing for the primitive life of ancient times. One proof of this is that the art of our age, while undergoing all sorts of rapid convolutions, is drawing closer and closer to the art of the prehistorical and early historical periods. In this respect, Japan is no different from the countries of the West, for she too has a body of primitive art which has captured the attention of contemporary artists.

Japan is considered throughout the world to have achieved a very high level of aesthetic development, but this reputation is due primarily to arts which evolved after the introduction of Buddhism from the Asiatic continent in the sixth century and which as a rule betray the strong influence of continental art. For the major portion of her artistic output, Japan must share honors with the rest of Asia, and particularly with China. Several thousand years before the arrival of Buddhism, however, the inhabitants of the Japanese islands created an art of clay in which their native sense of beauty was expressed in its purest form, free of continental influence.

Though this art has features which must be regarded as purely Japanese, it also has a good deal in common with the art created by primitive peoples all over the world. There is a basic human element in all art of this sort which makes it comprehensible and even appealing today, no matter how long ago or far away it was created.

The oldest artistic remains found in the Japanese islands are earthen vessels of a type called Jomon (Plates 14 - 15). This name is given to the ware in question because many of the pieces have surface designs suggesting coiled rope, which resulted when the potters, in shaping the vessels, pressed down on the outside with wooden clubs wrapped with straw rope. At first the designs were unintentional, but as time went on the potters began to make conscious use of them for a wide variety of decorative effects. In some instances the design . . .

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