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Smile of the Buddha: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art from Monet to Today Hardcover – September 14, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"How wonderful that Jacquelynn Baas has seen the light of the Buddha's smile shining from faraway Asia into the realm of the art of modern times in what we think of as the West!... Her work reveals how some of our most influential artists explored and expressed the sophisticated perceptions and joyful energy emanating from the realm of Buddhist Asia."

"This timely and beautifully illustrated book expands our perspective on how spirituality inspire and inform one another."--"True Budda Blog"

From the Inside Flap

"The relations between eastern and western cultures have long been a neglected topic, and this careful and intelligent look at a small but significant part of those relations is most welcome."—Thomas McEvilley, author of The Shape of Ancient Thought

"How wonderful that Jacquelynn Baas has seen the light of the Buddha's smile shining from faraway Asia into the realm of the art of modern times in what we think of as the West! . . . Her work reveals how some of our most influential artists explored and expressed the sophisticated perceptions and joyful energy emanating from the realm of Buddhist Asia."—Robert A. F. Thurman

"As a Buddhist scholar and artist I welcome this thoughtful and richly detailed study of how many aspects of Buddhism have stimulated, invigorated, and enriched Western arts over the past 150 years."—Stephen Addiss, author of The Art of Zen

"A crucial contribution to modern art studies, this high-spirited text surveys Western artists awakened by the wisdom of the East, from Monet and Duchamp to O'Keeffe to Martin. It is a thoughtful book about thoughtful artists, their values and their visions, with a lot to offer general readers and specialists alike."—Charles Stuckey, Associate Professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (September 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520242084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520242081
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,451,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The best books make us think, by showing relationships between realms we had not thought connected. Just so, Jacquelynn Baas breaks new ground in SMILE OF THE BUDDHA: EASTERN PHILOSOPHY AND WESTERN ART FROM MONET TO TODAY.

By exploring the influences of Asian thought in general and Buddhism in particular on European and American artists of the modern era, Baas takes her readers on a breathtaking leap across time and geography.

That she lands squarely on target is attested by art historians and scholars of Buddhism who have praised this book as "careful and intelligent," "thoughtful and richly detailed," "high spirited" and "a crucial contribution to modern art studies."

My own take, as a lay reader with no credentials in either art history or Asian thought, is that Baas, Director emeritus of the University of California Art Museum, has created a most unusual hybrid: a handsomely illustrated coffee table volume with a fascinating detective story woven among its color plates.

Like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, historical magnifying glass in hand, she investigates a bevy of mysteries. How was it that Taoist and Buddhist emphasis on change infiltrated European culture through, of all things, the English Romantic Garden? How did Buddhist philosophy appeal to artists including Monet, van Gogh, Gauguin? How did Asian aesthetic theory open a path to abstract painting for Georgia O'Keeffe? How did Buddhism influence Marcel Duchamp to imagine new connections between artist, viewer and object, helping change the very definition of "art"?

Bringing her story into the present, Baas sheds light on the role of Zen in the music and performance art of John Cage, Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono and Laurie Anderson.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like modern art and I'm curious about Buddhism, and this book fit both bills. Buddhism has about a billion followers, and as a Christian, I should know understand something about it for talking purposes. Also, I was curious about getting some understanding of the bizarre but usually (for me) interesting modern art. Is there a connection?

I learned that, broadly, Buddhism an experiential religion, which strives at leaving the ego behind through meditation on the Void, and seeks awaking and transcendence while pondering the transience and sorrow of life. Some of this resonates in my religion too. I'm sure this is a vast simplification since there are many flavors of Buddhism (just like there are many flavors of Christianity), but I like to think it is at least a start.

What really surprised me was not what I learned about Buddhism itself but HOW it is expressed and sought after through the arts. John Cage, for example, randomly generated his art and music. His musical piece, 4'33'' (4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence) was the artistic equivalent of a blank canvas, and his other music is almost unlistenable (at least to me). Blank and mono-chrome colored canvases are also an expression of Buddhism; it is meant to invoke a response after staring long enough. The same applies to Yoko Ono and her `happenings'; at one of her events, members of the audience were invited onstage, one-by-one to cut a piece of her clothing off. A Japanese artist, June Paik, painted with his head. Another artist's work was an empty white room. Still another frightened his audience at his piano recital by his strange somewhat violent behavior including cutting off the tie of John Cage who just happened to be in attendance.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recommend this book highly. The author offers knowledge and insight into both art and buddhism and it makes a great gift for anyone who is interested in these subjects. I have given copies of this book to two friends and they were most appreciative.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Smile of the Buddha was delivered in excellent timing and in brand new condition. However, as for the content of the book itself, I wouldn't recommend it. Personally I have to have this book for a class I'm taking on Japan and the West, but so far the book seems as if it wasn't written by an English First Language speaker, which would be fine if it weren't also trying hard to use college textbook English. So in short, definitely buy from this seller, but avoid this book if its not assigned by a professor.
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