Paul Binnie, Scottish, b. 1967
Flowers of a Hundred Years: Café Waitress of 1930
(Hyakunen no Hana: Kafé no Jokyu)
the series title Hyakunen no Hana and print title Senkyuhyaku Sanjunen no Kafé no Jokyu in karazuri ('blind-printing') on upper left margin, signed in kanji, Bin-ni at lower left followed by red artist's seal Binnie, numbered and signed in pencil on the bottom margin, 33/100, Paul Binnie, November 2013
dai oban tate-e 18 3/4 by 13 1/4 in., 47.6 by 33.5 cm
In this fourth design of the Flowers of a Hundred Years series the artist depicts a waitress against the warm glow of a café in the background. During the inter-war years in Japan café culture became an important element of contemporary society- providing a meeting place for artisans, intellectuals as well as employment for women. Not unlike Edo period tea house waitresses, the modern café waitresses became a feminine icon of the era and were a frequent subject of novels, popular music and poetry. While the café served as a nexus for modern culture, the waitress was not necessarily identified as a moga ('modern girl'), the subject of the previous design in this series. To underscore this distinction, Binnie shows this waitress in 'profil perdu'- turning slightly away from the viewer to show that while her hair has been styled with deep Marcel Waves, it has not been cut short.
While the subject of the print is a relatively modest café waitress, the printing itself is deceptively lavish, requiring over 70 printings. There are numerous design elements that are drawn from the recent 2012 blockbuster Deco Japan exhibition at the Japan Society in New York. The obi is the most elaborate the artist has ever attempted with over 30 colors and based on a pattern from a small silver box (cat. 61). The pattern of the kimono is found on the endpapers (cat. 45), with some changes to the palette and the addition of orange and silver metallic pigment. The hair comb was inspired by the foot of a lacquer tray with a triangle motif (cat. 122) which he adjusted to suggest Mount Fuji and embellished with 23 carat gold leaf. The distinctive chandeliers in the background are based on a photograph taken by Binnie from a visit to the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Museum of Art (formerly the residence of Prince Asaka).
Reference: Brown, Kendall H., Deco Japan: Shaping Art & Culture 1920-1945, 2012
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