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  • 1. Running head: A DESCRIPTION OF THE ART OF JAPAN A Description of Japanese Art Focusing on Printmaking and Textile Work David WPrice Marshall University Author Note David “Wesley” Price. Freshman art appreciation 2012. Marshall University. Attendance at the aforementioned university was paid for in part by the Promise scholarship of West Virginia. Correspondence concerning this piece should be addressed to David Wesley Price at Price239@marshall.edu. 1
  • 2. A DESCRIPTION OF JAPANESE ART 2 Abstract This paper explores a small selection of the artistic traditions of Japan. It focuses on printmaking from some of its earliest appearances, and modern textile work. Much attention is paid to the great artists who contribute to these art forms. The first is the early printmaker Suzuki Harunobu. As with every artist discussed, one of Harunobu’s pieces is presented to represent the best of an entire field of artistic creation. The second printmaker is Ogata Gekko. His work is presented to show the changing sensibilities in Japanese prints over time. Finally, a textile worker named Sonoko Sasaki is introduced to illustrate the reverence for traditional art held by the people of modern-day Japan. The paper’s main goal is to give the reader a sense of the style, social value, and historical importance of art in Japan. Keywords: Suzuki Harunobu, Ogata Gekko, Sonoko Sasaki
  • 3. A DESCRIPTION OF JAPANESE ART 3 A Description of Japanese Art Focusing on Printmaking and Textile Work The artistic traditions of Japan have been formed by the tremendous influences of nature, and tradition, as well as external pressure. This island nation has produced works of unparalleled restraint and expertise. Within Japan, the mixture of religious philosophy and social tradition left a deep mark on art and those who produced it. Perhaps the most famous Japanese art form is printmaking. Suzuki Harunobu (c. 1725-1770) was amongst the first Japanese artists to produce full color woodblock prints. Fashionable Seven Komachi Transformed(1766, ink on paper, Philadelphia Museum of Arts) is one such print. Harunobu was succeeded by Ogata Gekko (1859-1920) who surpassed Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by sixty-four views in his 100 Views of Mount Fuji.From Temple Balcony(Ca. 1904, ink on paper, sold to a private collector in 2007)is a view which holds particular charm. Literature Review Suzuki Harunobu is remembered for exquisite depictions of traditional print subjects. Women of the demimonde held a special fascination for printmakers, and Harunobu became an expert at their depiction. Fashionable Seven Komachi Transformed, however, relates a scene from a play which celebrates the subtlety of Japanese poetry. Although the viewer is unaware of the play’s plot, Harunobu’s expressive style reveals a moment with visual eloquence. “The close parallelism of the figures’ heads and shoulders is a compositional device used to suggest intimacy that is encountered in various designs by Harunobu”(Suzuki Harunobu, 2013). This delicate expression is a common quality in Japanese art. Discussion Another great printmaker, Ogata Gekko was born into a wealthy family which lost everything when he was sixteen. To survive they opened a lantern shop, and to make extra
  • 4. A DESCRIPTION OF JAPANESE ART 4 money the young Gekko sold drawings. His natural ability was quickly noticed and he began to train in printmaking. His rise to success was highly unusual in the rigidly divided class system of nineteenth century japan. “He not only broke societal rules, he broke all the rules of print making and created a style so unique and inimitable, wood block carvers and printers today wonder at the challenges he created for their professions”(OGATA GEKKO, 2013).From Temple Balcony is especially interesting. Limitations of These Studies In this clever composition, the great mountain, symbolic of Japan, is an understated form behind a more eye catching scene. A small crowd is looking out from a balcony, drawing one’s attention to Mount Fugi, giving the image a sense of detached beauty. Technological limitations. The varying ages of the figures suggest a family group, which correlates with Japanese respect for filial piety. The juxtaposition of the underemphasized mountain and the overstated family is an example of an unprescedented characteristic in Gekko’s work. Demographic limitations. Japanese artistic tradition is not limited to printmaking. Chapter 3.3 of Gateways to Art: Understanding the Visual Arts discusses the work of Sonoko Sasaki with Japanese textiles. Modality limitations. This artist was designated a national living treasure by the Japanese government for her dedication to an important cultural art (Gateways to Art: Understanding Visual Art, 2012).As did prints, this art form reflects uniquely Japanese sensibilities.
  • 5. A DESCRIPTION OF JAPANESE ART Conclusions and Future Study Japan’s rich artistic history reflects the ideas and ideals which drove the nation. Life in Japan was vigorously recorded by printmakers through centuries of the country’s development. These pieces serve as memorials to their expert creators and, possibly more importantly, to the culture which enabled their creation. 5
  • 6. A DESCRIPTION OF JAPANESE ART References Gateways to Art: Understanding Visual Art. (2012). In D. J. Dewitte. New York: Thames & Hudson. OGATA GEKKO. (2013, Mar 30). Retrieved from ogatagekko.net. Suzuki Harunobu. (2013, Mar 30). Retrieved from viewingjapaneseprints.net. 6
  • 7. A DESCRIPTION OF JAPANESE ART 7 Appendix A Ogata Gekko The artistic traditions of Japan have been formed by the tremendous influences of nature, and tradition, as well as external pressure. This island nation has produced works of unparalleled restraint and expertise. Within Japan, the mixture of religious philosophy and social tradition left a deep mark on art and those who produced it. Perhaps the most famous Japanese art form is printmaking. Suzuki Harunobu (c. 1725-1770) was amongst the first Japanese artists to produce full color woodblock prints. Fashionable Seven Komachi Transformed (1766, ink on paper, Philadelphia Museum of Arts) is one such print. Harunobu was succeeded by Ogata Gekko (1859-1920) who surpassed Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by sixty-four views in his 100 Views of Mount Fuji.From Temple Balcony(Ca. 1904, ink on paper, sold to a private collector in 2007)is a view which holds particular charm. Table A1 Lists of Letters and Numbers Letters A B C D E F Numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6
  • 8. A DESCRIPTION OF JAPANESE ART 8 Appendix B Pie Chart that is Colorful 1st Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 4th Qtr