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Black crested haori with faux-resist dyed designs of chrysanthemum arabesques in yellow, red, and blue on crackled orange ground with embroidery

Minagawa Gekka

Artwork Details

Black crested haori with faux-resist dyed designs of chrysanthemum arabesques in yellow, red, and blue on crackled orange ground with embroidery
circa 1950
Minagawa Gekka
Black damask silk with wax-resist pattern, hand-painted designs, and embroidery
32 11/16 in x 49 in (83 cm x 124.46 cm);32 11/16 in x 49 in (83 cm x 124.46 cm);20 1/4 in (51.5 cm)
Gift of Howard and Patricia Yamaguchi
2005/1.351

On Display

Not currently on display

Description

Minagawa Gekka
Japan, ca. 1892–1987
Black crested haori with chrysanthemum design
Shōwa period (1926–1989)
ca. 1950
Black damask silk with wax-resist pattern, hand-painted designs,
and embroidery
Gift of Howard and Patricia Yamaguchi, 2005/1.351

Minagawa Gekka is known for his fresh, innovative textiles that
combine modern aesthetics and historic techniques. The flaming
scale pattern of the dragon on this haori is made using a complex
wax-resist dyeing technique from the eighth century. Gekka created
the chrysanthemum design using the yūzen technique developed in
his native Kyoto in the Edo period (1615–1868), outlining the flowers
in rice paste and then filling them in with vibrant colors. He added
dramatic texture by applying dazzling metallic embroidery. The
bold design, which is like a flying, fire-breathing dragon, contradicts
the understated elegance associated with the yūzen tradition.

The haori was originally part of a man’s formal attire. In the
twentieth century, it became the standard outerwear for women
dressing in kimono outside the home.

Summer 2023 Gallery Rotation 
__________

Minagawa Gekka was one of the most celebrated textile designers working in Kyoto in the mid-twentieth century, eventually earning the honor of being named a “Living National Treasure.” He personally rediscovered a technique for wax-resist dyeing, reviving a skill that had been lost since the eighth century. Most of his output was large textile hangings designed to be framed for public display, but he also designed kimono, haori (short jackets), and obi. Gekka’s textiles are always complex works, layering multiple techniques to create rich, textured surfaces. Thanks to the Yamaguchi family, the Museum now owns seven works by Gekka, making UMMA one of the best resources in North America for studying this innovative and idiosyncratic artist.
(Maribeth Graybill, "Recent Acquisitions of East Asian Art," November 5, 2005-May 14, 2006)
This colorful haori (a short jacket for the kimono) is a work by one of the most innovative textile artists of modern Japan, Minagawa Gekka (1892–1987). Although best known for large woven hangings for public buildings and sacred architecture, Gekka also designed traditional Japanese costumes, including kimono (full-length wrapped robes), haori, and obi (sashes). The vivid rendering of chrysanthemums and technical complexity seen in this haori testify to his extraordinary mastery of the medium. At the same time, we gain some insight into the persona of the woman for whom this work was commissioned, a young married woman who successfully operated a real estate business in mid-twentieth century Tokyo.
Born into a family of textile designers, Gekka was part of a generation that created a revolution in the role of the maker for traditional Japanese crafts. Just as the studio potters in his age cohort, such a Hamada Shôji and Kawai Kanjirô, were redefining themselves as artists on an international scale, Gekka too aspired to the status of “artist” (sakka) rather than “craftsman.” Gekka was originally trained as in yûzen technique of dying fabric, a specialty of his native Kyoto that involved painting directly on fabric. Seeking a fresh perspective, he became a student of Tsuji Rokô, a famed painter of traditional Japanese themes in Kyoto. At the same time, he studied oil painting at the Kansai Art Institute, a well-known painting school in Kyoto area. From his painting studies, he developed a unique repertoire of motifs quite outside the traditional mold. Instead of the delicate cherry and plum blossoms associated with Kyoto, he drew bold tropical flowers in hot colors, with great élan.
Gekka also departed from traditional yûzen dying by approaching technique in an inventive way. Based on personal observation of ancient Chinese textiles, Gekka reintroduced a complex wax-resist dying technique. He borrowed the use of gold thread from Kyoto’s Nishijin brocade industry and applied it in embroidery, along with newly developed synthetic metallic threads and sequins. His name first became widely known in1927 when, in recognition of his accomplishments, he was invited to submit work to the most prestigious art exhibition at the time, the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts Exhibition (Teiten). Until his death in 1987, Gekka searched tirelessly for new means of expression and formats of textile art: his works include screen panels (byôbu), decorative hangings for the ceremonial carts used in Kyoto’s Gion Festival, and ceiling panels for a Buddhist temple, all of which were traditionally created by painters. Gekka played a central role in elevating the status of textiles as an art in modern Japan.
The haori depicted here is one of six items of clothing designed by Gekka recently donated to the Museum by Pat and Howard Yamaguchi, as part of a much larger gift of twentieth-century Japanese garments. These works originally belonged to Howard Yamaguchi’s mother and maternal grandmother, who worked together in a real estate office in Tokyo. Mother and daughter (and another four daughters as well) ordered their kimono directly from various prestigious shops in Tokyo who dealt with Kyoto manufacturers, and all six women often had matching Gekka outfits.

As usual with Gekka’s work, this haori dazzles the eye with its brilliant color and bold patterns. Close examination reveals that it is an intricate work, built up patiently with many layers of craftsmanship. The silk fabric itself has been woven in a twill pattern of palace carts and flower baskets, a traditional auspicious theme for women’s wear. These patterns would only be visible in a raking light, and thus operate as very subtle background for the whole composition. (Gekka probably commissioned the fabric; he was not a weaver.) Gekka would then have an assistant sew together the haori, so that he could work on the complete garment. His first step was to draw the chrysanthemum designs and the family crest (visible at the back of the collar) in paste, and then dye the fabric in black, leaving these areas in reserve. Next, he added large swaths of a pinkish-orange scale pattern in diagonal sweeps from upper left to lower right, using the wax resist technique. Then, after the paste was washed away to expose the white silk, he hand-painted the chrysanthemums in shades of red, yellow, blue, and white, in animated strokes that suggest flickering flames. The final stroke was the addition of embroidery in various metallic threads or thick silk around the contours of the chrysanthemum petals and leaves, adding volume and texture. The details are almost too much for the eye to take it, yet contribute to an overall effect of richness and depth to the dynamic design.
The haori was originally part of a man’s formal attire, but in the nineteenth century, female entertainers in Edo (modern Tokyo) adopted it as a cloak for outdoor wear in mild weather. By the end of the century, married women of the upper class adopted black crepe silk haori with family crests (such as that seen here, at the back of the collar) for formal, public occasions. For much of the twentieth century, the haori has been the standard outerwear for a woman who dresses in a kimono outside the home. The owner of the haori, Shizuko Iwata, was a pioneering female executive in the mid-twentieth century Japan, running successful real estate business. Just as modern businesswomen buy power suits to express their authority and wealth, so did Shizuko Iwata: she owned dozens of kimono, haori, and obi of the very finest quality, custom made for many different occasions, all in exquisite taste. This elaborate haori by Gekka would ensure that she was noticed in the male-dominated business world.
We are deeply grateful to the Yamaguchi family for sharing with the people of Michigan this remarkable haori, which represents not only the genius of Minagawa Gekka, but also the self-assurance and verve of a remarkable woman who refused to conform to traditional female roles in modern Japan.
(Natsu Oyobe, "Objects in Focus, Recent Museum of Art Acquisition: Colorful Japanese Haori," The University of Michigan Museums of Art and Archaeology, Bulletin, XVI [2005-2006].)
Like the modern pioneers in ceramics featured in this gallery, the textile artist Minagawa Gekka created fresh, innovative work by combining modern aesthetics and forgotten technique. The flaming scale pattern of this haori is made with a complex wax-resist dyeing technique from the eighth century. Gekka directly painted the chrysanthemum design with the traditional yûzen dyeing method of his native Kyoto, while he added dramatic volumes and a dazzling effect by employing metallic embroidery. The bold presentation of this haori confounds the understated elegance associated with the yûzen tradition.
The haori was originally part of a man’s formal attire. In the twentieth century, it became the standard outerwear for women dressing in kimono outside their homes.
(Label for UMMA Japanese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)
Although the majority of Japanese brocade—a rich fabric with a raised design, woven with gold and silver threads—is produced in the Nishijin district of Kyoto, certain brocades are made in former castle towns like Saga and Kaga. Saga brocade, still renowned today, originated as a textile art practiced as a pastime in the Edo period (1615–1868) by the ladies-in-waiting of the ruling Nabeshima clan of the Kashima domain (modern-day Saga prefecture in the southwestern island of Kyûshû). It is hand produced on a small, lap-sized table, using thin gold, silver, and platinum papers for the warp, and colorful silk threads for the weft. Because of the delicate, painstaking nature of the process, only a tiny amount can be woven in one day. Saga brocade, therefore, is usually restricted to appliqués, as in these examples.
(Wrapped in Silk & Gold Exhibition, Summer 2010)

Subject Matter:

The haori was originally part of a man’s formal attire, but in the nineteenth century, female entertainers in Edo (modern Tokyo) adopted it as a cloak for outdoor wear in mild weather. By the end of the century, married women of the upper class adopted black crepe silk haori with family crests (such as that seen here, at the back of the collar) for formal, public occasions. For much of the twentieth century, the haori has been the standard outerwear for a woman who dresses in a kimono outside the home. The twill pattern of palace carts and flower baskets is a traditional auspicious theme for Japanese women’s wear. Chrysanthemums are motifs of autumn season, and traditional clothes with this flower design are usually worn in fall.

Physical Description:

It is a black silk damask haori (short jacket for kimono) with wax-resist patterns, hand-painted design and metallic threads embroidery. The haori is in medium length, covering just underneath hip. It has elongated sleeves. The silk fabric is woven in a twill pattern of palace carts and flower baskets. Then the fabric is dyed with black. The white family crest under the collar and the diagonal part where chrysanthemum design would appear are left out from dying. The pinkish orange scale pattern is added using wax-resist technique. Chrysanthemum design is hand-painted with white, red, yellow, and blue colors. Finally embroidery is added in various metallic threads around the contours of the chrysanthemum petals and leaves.
Orange satin damask lining with woven wave design, with stenciled (?) designs of white flying cranes. Silver cord on one side, gold on the other, both with tassels.

Usage Rights:

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