Non-Western Art: Art from Japanese Edo Period
The Edo period (or Tokugawa period) in Japan lasted from 1603 to 1868. It was the final period of traditional Japan ruled by Tokugawa shogunate (Samurai). The Edo period came to an end with Meiji Restoration in 1868 that was the political movement to restore an emperor as head of Japan. The movement led Japan to move toward modernization and to militarize the nation. The Last Samurai by Tom Cruise is based on Meiji Restoration. Samurai who were inspired by the traditions of Japan fought against the Meiji military, which is a group influenced by western culture and militarism. I have chosen three works from the Edo period: The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, Fujin-raijin-zu, and Tiger. I really enjoy these works because they are a great representation of Japanese culture and traditional arts.
The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is an ukiyo-e (woodblock print) created by Katsushika Hokusai sometime between 1829- 1932 exact year unknown. The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is the first design for a series of 36 prints, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. It became one of the most well known prints in Japan and had influenced Western artists such as Whistler, van Gogh, and Monet. The Great Wave Off Kanagawa shows a massive wave about come to hit three boats and their crews. On the horizon Mt. Fuji sits in the distance. This is not a picture of fishermen fighting against the wave but rather going with flow of life. I really enjoy this work because its concept. Hokusai had somewhat a long life span, he then wanted to represent his own view of life by depicting the wave and Mt. Fuji. Fishermen on boats describe everyday activities of people back in the Edo period because fishing was essential for their living. They risked their life to go on the ocean to support their country and family. The way he represents the wave really amazed me. He used blue and white to make it look very precise and interesting.
Fujin-raijin-zu is the folding screen paintings created by Tawaraya Sotatsu in late 1700s exact year unknown. This is the best-known work of Sotatsu and it became National Treasure of Japan. Sotatsu started his career as a fan-painter (Folding screens), which is the art style developed in China and Japan during the 12th century. Later, he became the co-founder of the Rimpa school of Japanese painting. Fujin-raijin-zu was painted under the influence of the great designer and calligrapher Hon’ami Koetsu, and Kyoto’s courtly culture. Fujin (right) and Raijin (left) were depicted in decorated paper with gold and silver background. I really enjoy this paintings because its concept. Raijin is the Japanese god of the thunder and Fujin is the god of the wind, were portrayed to demonstrate the Shinto religion. Japanese used to believe that the sky was dominated by these two gods. Everything occurred above the ground was as results of Fujin and Raijin. Sotatsu was also able to express the glory of gods by using the gold and silver background which I’ve never seen in Western Art.
Ito Jakuchu was born in Kyoto in 1716 (Mid-Edo Period). His family was very wealth, and had been the grocery business for four generations. After his father died, he inherited the business at the age of 23. However, he did not want to become a businessman. He gave up his own business and decided to become a painter. Many of his paintings emphasized Japanese traditional animals such as chickens and birds. The painting Tiger is an imitation of Chinese artist Mao Yi. He could not paint a tiger from a live model because there were not tigers in Japan. However, Jakuchu was very impressed by such an animal. I really enjoyed this work because its color. He precisely expressed the skin tone of unknown animal with only his imagination. One thing that caught my interest was the tiger’s eye. Usually tigers have sharped narrow eyes with yellow and black pupils. Jakuchu’s tiger has around eyes with blue pupils. He applied his imagination to make the tiger as realistic as possible with only his intuition. This is definitely one of my favorite out of all three.
In conclusion, I represented the three paintings of three great painters from the Edo period. I found many similarities with the paintings. They used short thin brush strokes and preferred to paint on decorated paper with gold and silver backgrounds. The painters tend to write their names and years on the paintings where views easily recognize. Some of paintings were inspired by Chinese style or artists. These paintings clearly illustrate Japanese culture and what Japanese were interested in during the Edo period.
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Smarthistory. “Hokusai’s Under the Wave Off Kanagawa (The Great Wave).” Smarthistory. KHANACADEMY. 2014. Web. < http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/hokusais-under-the-wave-off-kanagawa.html >.
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Wikipedia. “Tawaraya Sotatsu.” Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. 11 December 2014. Web. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tawaraya_S%C5%8Dtatsu>.