Like the iconic Asian parasols, paper lanterns that originated in the Far East are a perennial favorite for Western garden parties and summer patios. Tastemakers ranging from Charlotte Moss to Miranda Brooks have used them.
Now that I know about the 1990s exhibition Rain and Snow: The Umbrella in Japanese Art, I'm curious to learn more about paper lanterns. When were they first marketed as souvenirs? When did it become common to paint them?
[John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose 1885-6, Oil on canvas, on view at The Tate]
I'm guessing some of the paper lanterns became more commonplace in the West during John Singer Sargent's era. Trade with Japan opened up about that time and there was a mania for "globe-trotter chic." In his painting above, the artist opted for a slightly asymmetric composition, suggestive of Japanese art, and included Japanese paper lanterns.
The Allen Memorial Art Museum offers instructions for making Chinese-inspired lanterns with construction paper. The lesson plan is designed for elementary school educators but I think anyone who wants to do this at home with their kids could just skip to the how-to section.
For vintage lanterns, try The Grand Tour. Related past post, Inspired by Film.
Credits: From the top, Lynn von Kersting's patio as seen in Getaways by Chris Casson Madden, Clarkson Potter 2000; Unidentified vignette from Exotic Style by Sara Bliss; and Miranda Brooks as seen in Bright Young Things, published by Assouline 2000. Photography copyright Jonathan Becker.