Art History:   Grade 6 Lesson 5

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  SENEGAL TO HONOLULU -  Art in Japan 

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  1. Nara: Pagoda of Murooji Temple in Early Summer,  8th cent., wood structure. Poster.
    A Japanese temple is always built within an enclosure, which may include a whole series of temples. The entrance is usually guarded by forbidding statues with scowling faces, which are thought to ward off evil spirits. They are customarily covered with paper on which worshippers have written petitions. After chewing the petition it is thrown at the figures. If they stick, it is thought that the prayer will be answered. the temple will often have a pagoda 3-5 stories high, usually with elaborate ornamentation. The pagoda acts as a central structure in the temple precincts.
    bullet The five tiered pagoda


  2. Winter, Edo Period, Isoda Koryusai (active 1764-1780) Ukiyo-e School. Reproduction Print
    Koryusai was famous for his "pillar-prints" particularly of women in gorgeous dress. He was a master of Japanese color print. Towards the end of his life he concentrated on book illustration and painting.

    bullet Koryusai - biography   
    bulletand here
    Ukiyo-e was a movement of Japanese genre painting which emerged during the 16th and 17th centuries to satisfy popular taste, in particular for the plebian class who were despised by the upper class.

    The word "ukiyo-e" is usually translated as "pictures of the floating world". In his popular Ukiyo Monogatari (Tales of the Floating World) Asai Ryoi (1610-1690) describes the floating world as "living only for the moment, savoring the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms, and the maple leaves, singing songs, drinking sake, and diverting oneself in floating, unconcerned with the prospect of imminent poverty, buoyant and carefree like a gourd carried along with the river current."

    The term ukiyo quickly became popular, acquiring connotations of fashionable, erotic, hedonistic, risqué or chic and was applied to a broad range of topics and objects including umbrellas, hats, hairstyles, novels and pictures. In particular ukiyo refers to the actors of the Kabuki stage. Images of beautiful women represent a primary motif. Earlier wood block print representations are of courtesans of the licensed brothel areas of Edo (Tokyo), Kyoto and Osaka. Depicted in every imaginable pose and setting, their images are not portraits but glorifications of a feminine ideal. Japanese woodblock prints clearly reflect the changing concepts of female beauty and the vagaries of fashion through the Edo period.


  3. The Hall of Asian Peoples, late 18th -early 19th cent., Theatrical wood block print for Kabuki Character. American Museum Poster.
    The first theatre entertainment in Japan originated in the 13th century , called NOH, meaning "the art of movement". Prose, poetry, music, singing and dancing were all part of NOH. The plays were short and told stories of ghosts, favorite legends or sometimes described an historical event. All of the characters were played by men wearing masks. NOH was performed only for the members of the royal court, the very rich and high-ranking.

    Kabuki is a traditional form of Japanese theater. It was founded early in the 17th century to cater to the middle classes, by a Shinto shrine dancer (Okuni), who brought her unique and lively dance style to the ancient capital of Kyoto. In 1629 women were officially banned from the stage and Wakusha, or young men's Kabuki developed. It took many years to train as a kabuki actor and many sons inherited their fathers positions in the theatre. The plays were longer and more elaborate than NOH. masks were replaced by elaborate makeup. The costumes were rich and beautiful. During the next 300 years this developed into a sophisticated, highly stylized form of theater. Kabuki plays and dances portray grand historical events or the everyday life of people of the Edo period (1600-1868).

    bullet Links
    bullet History of Kabuki Theatre


  4. The Great Wave of Kanagawa, late 1820s, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) 10" x 15" Color woodcut from the series Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji. (1823-29) Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, NY. Poster
     One of the most renowned masters of the Japanese ukiyo-e color print was Katsushika Hokusai, a prolific painter, print designer, and book illustrator. He was comparatively slow to find his own style and did not produce his greatest work until 1818-30.


    Woodcuts have been used for a long time in Japanese art. For a woodcut, the artist first paints a picture on paper. This picture becomes the cutter's pattern for carving a wooden block. The block is covered in ink and paper is then pressed onto it. The removed paper is the print. Originally prints were in black and white, then they were colored by hand with watercolor. When the color print was invented, separate woodblock carvings had to be made for each color in the final print.


  5. Cat,  Oide Makoto (Toko) (1836-1905) ink and color on Hanging silk scroll. Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, NY. Reproduction photograph.
    Through most of her history, Japan has borrowed the inspiration of her art from China. Even the themes were predominantly of Chinese origin, although occasionally subjects were taken from Japanese history or mythology.

    Japanese, like many Chinese, are often lovers of nature but their artistic approach is often more sentimental.

    Japanese painters paint on paper or silk more often than western artists who favor canvas. Ink or watercolors are favored mediums stemming from the development of their painting from calligraphy (like the Chinese).


  6. Mt. Fuji in Moonlight, early 19th cent., sprinkled design on lacquer. Detail from a Suzuribako (inkstone case) Reproduction.
    The art of lacquering, like many other Japanese arts was derived from China, but attained a quality, both aesthetic and technical that exceeded that of any other in the Far East. Lacquer is a natural varnish of exceptional hardness derived from the lac tree. In 646 AD it was demanded as a kind of tax.

    Fine lacquerware takes a long time to make. Many coats are applied to pieces that are usually made of pine, but can be of cloth, clay or leather. Each coat of lacquer is dried in moist air before the next is applied. The design is inlaid in gold dust, mother-of-pearl, gold or silver. Then more lacquer is applied, allowed to dry and then polished until the inlay shows through.

    An "inkstone" is made of pottery, stone or earthenware with a flat area where an inkstick can be rubbed; this slopes to a slight hollow where a little water; liquefies the ink, freshening and diluting it in the course of writing or painting. Inkstones used also to be made of iron, jade and quartz.

    The grinding of the inkstone is in a very real way, a meditative and preparatory process for the writing to come. First the calligrapher pours a bit of water into the small hollow in his inkstone and, sitting in an upright position, takes an inkstick in his right hand and begins to move it slowly and steadily in a circular motion across the stone. A good inkstick makes no noise, although the term "grinding ink" seems to imply otherwise. As the calligrapher concentrates on this motion, the inkstick becomes an extension of the hand and his mind focuses. Once the correct consistency is achieved, the calligrapher has settled to a peaceful and undistracted state of mind allowing him to focus his attentions to the poem or essay he intends to write. This focused mental quality is thought to result in calligraphy of high quality.


  7. Child's Kimono and Obi (Sash), Fabric objects.
    The kimono is the national dress of Japan. It is a long robe which opens in the front, has wide sleeves, and is worn with a narrow sash (men and Children) or a wide one (women). The kimono was originally introduced into Japan from China as an undergarment. In the 10th century people began wearing it as an outer garment, since it was so beautiful. During the Edo period ladies' kimonos became highly decorative and during this time, the sash (obi) was developed into the wide one still worn today.

    The style and cut of a kimono varies only in colors and cloth pattern. Bright colors and more elaborate sleeve panels are favored by younger women. Men generally wear dark blue, black or brown kimonos.

    Kimonos were worn for everyday wear by the Japanese until a strong wave of western influence swept into Japan at the beginning of the last century. people quickly switched to western attire and now wear kimonos primarily for weddings, funerals, festivals and parties.

    bullet History of the Kimono


  8. Daruma Dolls, Photograph

    8a. Daruma Doll, papier-mâché, contemporary object.

    The daruma doll is named after a Buddhist priest from India who is said to have traveled to China in the 6th century and founded the Zen Buddhist religion. he is shown as having round wide-open eyes, and a black moustache, wearing a red robe. The legend tells that he sat in the same position, day and night, for nine years, meditating on his beliefs, and that because he did not use his arms or legs they slowly withered away. The ability to forget self is an important step in Buddhism.

    The Japanese remember this legend with armless, legless dolls, like a model, made of papier-mâché and painted red, black and white. The dolls are weighted at the bottom so that no matter how many times they are knocked over, they will return to an upright position. This symbolizes resilience in the face of misfortune. The doll is thought to bring good luck and success.daruman.jpg (20970 bytes)

    On New Year's Day in Japan (Feb 3rd. - Toshitori), or on other special occasions, people buy a daruma doll, make a wish, and paint a black dot in the center of one of the blank eye spaces. The doll is then placed where it can be seen every day, to remind the owner of the wish or goal. When his wish comes true or he reaches his goal, he paints a black dot in the other eye.



  9. On the Wing, Koson (Ikeda Sanshin) , Japanese (1801-1866)), , Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris Reproduction photograph.
      click for enlargement


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