Japanese Art in the Age of Hokusai


Many of you are likely familiar with the Japanese woodblock
print “The Great Wave,” showing a mighty wave
bearing down on tiny fishing boats, with Mt. Fuji just visible
in the distance. This is by the master painter and print artist,
Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), whose life and work
will be the major focus of this course. While Mt. Fuji was
an important theme for Hokusai, he took on a wide range
of subjects, both real and imagined, producing inexpensive
prints for quick sale and elaborate paintings for the most
elite patrons. His work reveals an inventiveness and mastery
of form that is unique in Japanese art. It also offers
us a window into the Edo period, an era of rapid change,
when the artist’s concept, the idea of what was suitable for
depiction and the audience for art were expanding.

We will take a close look at individual works by Hokusai
and then explore how his paintings and prints can be
seen as a response to and forerunner of general trends
in Japanese art of the 18th and 19th centuries. We will
also examine comparative paintings and prints of the
time, especially ukiyo-e by Ando Hiroshige and others.
Among the topics we will address for a better understanding
of Hokusai and his place in Japanese art are
the rise of genre painting and the development of woodblock
printing; the Edo period travel boom and its role in
the creation of such print series as Hokusai’s “Thirty-six
Views of Mt. Fuji”; the concept of “eccentricity” and its
perceived connection to creative genius; the impact of
Western ideas and techniques on Edo art; and the constant
demand for images that were novel, surprising and
“up-to-date.” We are fortunate to have an excellent exhibition
of Hokusai’s paintings in the Freer Gallery at the
Smithsonian Institution, which will be a chief resource for
the course. Reading recommendations will be posted in registered members' accounts.

Additional Information


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Morland 9/22 - 11/10 Tu 12:00 PM - 01:30 PM $55.00 View