Thursday, 2 December 2010

Felice Ueno Rix (1893 - 1967): Japanland

Felice Rix isn't an obvious printmaker but she wasn't someone to let conventions like that bother her too much. Viennese by birth, she studied under the architect and designer Josef Hoffman (1870 - 1956), presumably at the Vienna University for Applied Arts. Hoffman had already played a very important part in the development of modern design, helping set up both the Vienna Secession in 1897, followed by the Wiener Werkstatte in 1905. Rix was a member of these Workshops when she made this linocut for a collective portfolio in 1914/1915. I think it stands out from the other prints - and not just for its elegance and wit.

Here is someone who was aware, a true stylist. You can see this from the woodcut from 1913 by the French artist Jean-Emile Laboureur (1877 - 1947). Her stiff, stylised postures and geometrical faces and patterns are alot like his. So much so, it's hard to know who was ahead of whom. Laboureur has Aubrey Beardsley and Felix Vallaton behind him as he adopts this newer linear style. Both artist and designer are cross-fertilising, moving briskly towards that hybrid style we now know as art deco. But it's the use of linocut by all the designers in the portfolio that is striking because it had first been adopted by the radical artists of Die Brucke - and then only after 1905. Before that it had only been used for wallpaper printing in Germany.

Here is Rix herself, possibly even sitting in a Josef Hoffman chair. As well she might because through the activities of Hoffman's practice, she met the Japanese architect Isaburo Ueno who had come to work under Hoffman in Vienna. I don't know whether Rix visited Japan before the couple were married in 1925 but she produced this printed silk called 'Japanland' for the Workshops in 1923.

The next silk fabric (unfortunately only a section) is also from 1923 and was called 'Tokyo' even though the Uenos moved to Kyoto once they were married. Rix went on designing fabric for the Workshops untill 1930 (they closed in 1933). After the war, she was professor of Fine Art at Kyoto University and was still teaching modern printmakers as late as 1957. Not surprisingly both husband and wife helped introduce modernism to Japan. She was Emil Orlik in reverse.


  1. Not commenting not meaning not reading or enjoying. I know it is nice to get feedback on postings. Besides, it is a matter of politeness too. Without your post I would never have met Felice Rix I quess so thanks very much. The Japanland I would love to have several meters of. Very nice. She must have been highly regarded in Japan being a professor for so long.
    The friendly ghost.

  2. There was an exhibition of work by both Rix and her husband not that long ago in Kyoto (I think). It's online.

    She's a vivacious designer.