A World of Shadows

“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty” Jun’ichirō Tanizaki concludes in his classic essay In Praise of Shadows. A tiny book of 50+ pages that that has inspired architects, designers and artists from all over the world.

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki.
“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty” Jun’ichirō Tanizaki concludes in his classic essay In Praise of Shadows. A tiny book of 50+ pages that that has inspired architects, designers and artists from all over the world.

In Praise of Shadows is an essay on Japanese aesthetics by author and novelist Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. It was first published in Japan in 1933. In the book Jun’ichirō Tanizaki discusses the traditional Japanese aesthetics challenged by change and modern, Western influences. The essay consists of 16 sections that compares the tension between light and dark, on which he places a cultural aspect. The Western culture, in its constant strive for progress, is presented as lightness and clarity. The Eastern culture, much more subtle and subdued, is seen to represent an appreciation of shadow and subtlety. The essay is a classic description of the collision between traditional interiors and the lightness of the modern age.

Publisher: Vintage Classics, May 2001.

We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates … Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

The text also contains Jun’ichirō Tanizaki´s personal reflections on aesthetic matters such as architecture, the Japanese room, paper making, crafts, food, cosmetics and more. In Praise of Shadows has been described as a “hymn to nuance” and an exercise in mindfulness. “Junichiro Tanizaki praises all things delicate and nuanced, everything softened by shadows and the patina of age, anything understated and natural – as for example the patterns of grain in old wood, the sound of rain dripping from eaves and leaves, or washing over the footing of a stone lantern in a garden, and refreshing the moss that grows about it – and by doing so he suggests an attitude of appreciation and mindfulness, especially mindfulness of beauty, as central to life lived well”, British philosopher and author A. C. Grayling has written.

From photographer Nona Orbach´s series A tribute to Tanizaki.
Another tribute artwork; Carlos Arnaiz Untitled oil on paper, 2018.
Yasuhiro Ishimoto´s photographed many traditional Japanese houses.
Also read Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren …
… and Wabi-Sabi: Further Thoughts also by Leonard Koren.