Exercise: Question 5 – Can I think up any other non-western influences on western art?

My first answer comes in the form of a type of embroidery that is thought to originate in China, Persia, Turkey or India as early as the 14th Century and is now commonly known as Tambouring – it is a form of continuous chain stitch with the characteristic look of backstitch on the back and is worked with a special hook in a handle (like a crochet hook but much finer) and on a frame.  It eventually reached France in around 1760 and was named after the tambour which is the drum that is the forerunner of the tambourine instrument and named because of the necessary for the fabric to be tightly stretched in the said frame.  Tambouring on clothing was at its height during the Napoleonic wars due to the scarcity of lace and eventually during the 19th Century a Frenchman by the name of Louis Ferry realised that it was also useful as an efficient way of attaching beads or sequins too – its popularity can be seen on the flapper dresses and accessories of the 1920’s (having reached England in around 1910.

Tambouring today is used in virtually all the great couture houses as well as on balletic costumes and also bags, belts, collars and accessories but I have also seen images of it where it is used on wall hangings as the exquisite work is very much an applied art and very skilled. In Turkey its use is as all forms of coverings from tables to wall hangings and forms a central part of ceremonial life to this day.  There is also a form done by the Indians of Peru although their form is much coarser and done without a frame.

Another influence was that of Egyptian art and culture on western art and this primarily came about due to colonial thievery and the early conquering of Egypt by Rome in 30  BC.  My interest though lies in the Egyptian Revival periods of first in the early to mid 1800’s and then in the 1920’s after Howard Carter had discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb – this is where my interest lies because Chatsworth House just to the north of where I live is where his sponsor Lord Carnarvon resided.  The Egyptian Revival periods are evident in architecture, textiles and art itself as well as all forms of applied arts through the Art Deco period – looking just at famous buildings such as the Chrysler Building in New York or Broadcasting House in London are just 2 examples of the Art Deco period and now I understand the influence of the Egyptian period in the curves representing the columns or the sharp geometric designs.  The art and jewellery of the periods reflect the Egyptian architecture, jewellery and paintings and these influences are still seen today.

Lastly an unexpected revelation was a suggestion by my fiance of whether there was an influence of Buddhist art on western art and if so how?   Until the late 1800’s Buddhism was virtually unknown in the west until the likes of scholars, philosophers and artists started to travel to the Far East and consequently brought back Buddhism and the ideologies of the religion along with the art.  After some digging and not really finding what I wanted I by chance discovered a book by Jacquelynn Bass called ‘Smile of the Buddha – Eastern Philosophy and Western Art from Monet to Today’ and instantly a famous work of waterlily’s came to mind and then I discovered an article on precisely this aspect of Monet’s work on a blog by Danila Rumold from the USA. Monet who lived from 1840 to 1926 initially, according to Ms Bass, came to the conclusion that ‘the fundamental function of art was to convey the experience of existence’ and that his first inkling towards this came through his exposure to a type of luminous woodcuts.  Eventually as his work progressed the influence of Buddhism can be seen through his serious of Waterlily paintings which are so famous and hint towards the Buddhist beliefs of regeneration.  I fully admit here Monet’s connection to Buddhism was something that was, as I state, an unexpected revelation but now when I look at his work I can understand and see it too.  Merely on his use of colour and my own personal knowledge of the chakra’s I can see the influence there too – maybe this is something I am looking for  but I know the higher chakra’s that are to do with rebirth or third eye are the blues and greens and lilacs that seem to be prominent in later works. The use of waterlily’s and water also speak of regeneration but also of meditative calm and peace which also echos of Buddhist influence.

If Monet is just one artist then clearly as Ms Bass’s book states there are many others and that is a book I am seriously interested in reading and am now looking to source!


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