Meaning of LACQUERWORK in English


certain metallic and wood objects to which coloured and frequently opaque varnishes called lacquer are applied. The word lacquer is derived from lac, which is the basis of some lacquers. The lacquer of East Asia, China, Japan, and Korea should not be confused with other substances to which the term is generally applied; for instance, the lac of Burma, which is the gummy deposit of an insect, Coccus lacca, and the various solutions of gums or resin in turpentine of which European imitations of Eastern lacquer have been and are concocted. any of a variety of decorative objects and surfaces to which a coloured, highly polished, and opaque type of varnish called lacquer has been applied. Most true lacquerwork is Chinese or Japanese in origin, although the technique was copied by European craftsmen in the 18th and 19th centuries. Lacquer takes its name from the substance known as lac, which is the basis of some lacquers. True lacquer, as used in East Asia, is the purified and dehydrated sap of a tree, the Rhus vernicifera, native to China and cultivated for centuries in Japan. The characteristic constituent of lacquer is called urushiol, from the Japanese word for lacquer, urushi. In Europe, where true lacquer was not available, various imitation substances were developed according to different formulas, though none of these had the hardness and brilliance of real Oriental lacquer. The base to which lacquer is applied is usually wood, though porcelain and metal have sometimes been used. The wooden base, frequently of pine, must be specially prepared so that its surface is smooth and even. Any knots, cracks, knobs, or imperfections must be smoothed away or filled in. The lacquer itself in its natural state is a thick, syrupy whitish- or grayish-coloured sap that turns dark brown or black when exposed to the air. It must undergo special preparation before it is ready to be used. First it is purified, then it is stirred to liquefy it, and afterward it is heated and stored in an airtight container until required. Lacquer is characterized by its quality of becoming extremely hard, but not brittle, when exposed to air. Its other unique quality is that it can take a high polish, or shine, so that a lacquerware piece may be as brilliant as fine glazed porcelain. In order to become as hard as possible, lacquer must dry in a damp atmosphere with plenty of moisture. This requirement led to the development of special techniques for hardening lacquerware. Lacquer is applied to the wooden base surface in many thin layers, and after each coat (20 to 30 is not an unusual amount) the surface must be allowed to harden and then be smoothed and rubbed. Various different qualities and types of lacquer are used in succession, and many different colours and decorative finishes are possible. Many days must elapse before the surface of the lacquerwork item is ready for decoration. The different colours of lacquer are created by the addition of different substances, such as cinnabar for red. Greens, buff, brown, black, and purple are other possible colours. A wide variety of surface decorative techniques exist, some such as carving being peculiar to Chinese lacquerwork, and others, such as the use of gold, more characteristic of Japanese pieces. A design might be drawn on a piece of paper and then transferred to the lacquered surface, or it might be drawn directly onto the piece. Gold, silver, engraving, carving, and inlay have all been used to create decorative effects of extreme richness. Both Chinese and Japanese craftsmen favour shell inlays such as mother-of-pearl. Jade, ivory, porcelain, and coral inlays also are used in China. The history of lacquerwork in China goes back to as far as the earliest legends of Chinese history. Lacquerwork of fine quality continued to be made until the 19th century, when it declined both in quality and in importance. The art was taken to Japan from China via Korea in the middle of the 6th century, when the lacquer tree, as well as Buddhism, was also introduced. By the 8th century a distinctive Japanese tradition had begun to develop, which was to continue until the 19th century. The finest work dates from the Genroku period between 1688 and 1703. The greatest Japanese lacquer artist of the 17th and 18th centuries was Ogata Korin. Other important artists include the families of Yamamoto Shunsho and Kajikawa. After 1600 lacquerwork began to be imported quite widely from Asia to Europe, and imitation lacquerwork began to be made by European craftsmen, especially in England, France, and Venice. Many exquisite pieces, particularly lacquered furniture, were made, decorated often with motifs characteristic of the Rococo. The taste for Oriental-style lacquerwork in Europe was part of the general taste for things Chinese known as chinoiserie. Lacquerwork in Europe was frequently known as japanning, or japan work. Additional reading European lacquer Hans Huth, Lacquer of the West: The History of a Craft and an Industry, 15501950 (1971), a concise, well-written statement, the most complete to date, based on a life-time study, with many excellent illustrations. Erich Karsten, Lackrohstoff-Tabellen, 7th ed. (1981), a monograph mainly on tables; Lucy Maxym, Russian Lacquer, Legends and Fairy Tales (1981); and Olga Voronova (comp.), Lacquer Miniatures from Mstiora (1980), dealing with original folk miniature painting and the specific techniques developed in Central Russia. Chinese lacquer Filippo Bonanni, Trattato sopra la vernice comunemente detta cinese (1720); Pierre d'Incarville, Mmoire sur le vernis de la Chine, Mmoires de mathmatique et de physique, 3:117142 (1760); Stephen W. Bushell, Chinese Art, vol. 1 (1904); Edward F. Strange, Catalogue of Chinese Lacquer in the Victoria and Albert Museum (1925) and Chinese Lacquer (1926); R.S. Jenyns, Chinese Lacquer, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 17 (193940); Fritz Low-Beer, Chinese Lacquer of the Early 15th Century and Chinese Lacquer of the Middle and Late Ming Period, Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, no. 22 and 24 (195052); Kurt Herberts, Das Buch der ostasiatischen Lackkunst (1959; Eng. trans., Oriental Lacquer, 1962); Werner Speiser, Lackkunst in Ostasien (1965); Harry M. Garner, Diaper Backgrounds on Chinese Carved Lacquer, Ars Orientalis, 6:165190 (1966), and A Group of Chinese Lacquers with Basketry Panels, Archives of Asian Art, 20:624 (196667); Lee Yu-kuan, Oriental Lacquer Art (1972). Japanese lacquer Johann J. Rein, Japan, nach Reisen und Studien, vol. 2 (1886; Eng. trans., The Industries of Japan, vol. 2, 1889, reprinted 1969); Michael Tomkinson, A Japanese Collection, 2 vol. (1898); L'Historie de l'art du Japon, Paris Exhibition (1900); Frank Brinkley, Japanese Temples and Their Treasures, 3 vol. (1910); Official Catalogue of the Japan-British Exhibition (1910); Edward F. Strange, The Incense Ceremony and Its Utensils, Japan Society Transactions, 21:2838 (192324), and Catalogue of Japanese Lacquer and Inro in the Victoria and Albert Museum (1924); Martha Boyer, Japanese Export Lacquers from the Seventeenth Century in the National Museum of Denmark (1959); Beatrix von Ragu, Geschichte der japanischen Lackkunst (1967). National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japanese Lacquer Art: Modern Masterpieces (1982; originally published in Japanese, 1981).

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