Final Essay Great Wave

Final Essay Great Wave - Pao-Yuan(Betty Tso Sec...

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Pao-Yuan (Betty) Tso Sec: 104 (Kristopher) 12/10/2008 The Great Wave: A Western Masterpiece Seen Through Japanese Lenses Under the Wave off Kanagawa , commonly entitled The Great Wave (Fig. 1), is a world- class masterpiece that is renowned and revered throughout the world . Recognized almost everywhere, including on labels of Japanese commercial food products, Hokusai’s polychrome print has become not only an emblem of Japanese art, but also the icon with which people associate the country . Contradicting traditional Japanese art, which tends to display aristocracy, this ingenious visual composition vividly portrays nature’s enormous power and human’s fragility . A sense of diversity and acceptance is also depicted by this print’s aesthetic and threatening visuals . Also from Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series, Under the Mannen Bridge of Fukagawa corresponds to the print and reveals Western influence, in terms of visual principles . Comparisons between this print and Shiba Kōkan’s oil painting also delineate Western inspiration . Using both Japanese and Western visual techniques, Hokusai demonstrates a synthesis between his Asian heritage and adapted Western influences . Furthermore, this work of art’s visual and cultural significance communicates to viewers . While this unification of Japanese and Western art looks realistic and lively, it is, at the same time, abstract and inundated with deep meanings, compelling viewers to feel different emotions and formulate interpretations based on subjectivity . While preserving some characteristics of traditional Japanese art, this woodblock print assimilated many elements of foreign cultures that complemented its aesthetic
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preferences . Appealing to the eyes of a broad range of people, in terms of cultural multiplicity, The Great Wave is commonly identified as a Western painting seen through Japanese lenses . Traditional Japanese art ignored nature, frequently portraying people of, or associated with, high social statuses . For example, Kanbun Master and Utamaro, woodblock print artists, focused on geishas and high class clients in many of their prints . In contrast, Hokusai goes beyond the norm and dedicates The Great Wave to landscape, suggesting the central theme of the print through its visual representation of Mount Fuji . The wave is boldly, yet smoothly, outlined to imply its power and unstoppable speed . At the tip of the waves, tentacles, which are expressed with fine crisp lines, symbolize claws grabbing onto the vulnerable fisherman boats . Thus, nature’s superiority to mankind is viciously illustrated, dispelling traditional Japanese art’s profuse focus on human’s importance .
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