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Famous Japanese Paintings and Prints

A discussion of art by Japanese Masters: 

Katsushika Hokusai:

The Great Wave of Kanagawa, by Katsushika Hokusai, is a remarkable woodcut print that was created by the artist around 1830. This is the very first print in a series of prints titled “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.” The print is a stunning example of the ukiyo-e style. Ukiyo-e translates roughly into “floating world” and examples can be found dating as far back at the 17th century and to our own near future, the 20th century. 

The Great Wave of Kanagawa depicts a huge wave and rough water that draw the viewer into the plight of several fishing boats. In the background is a solid and centered image of Mount Fuji. The print is amazing because it is one of the most famous prints from Japan. It is quite popular around the world. At first glance, the huge wave is thought to be a Tsunami but instead is what we would call today a rogue wave. Hokusai termed it an okinami which translates into “wave of the open sea.” The setting of the picture is the open sea around the prefecture of Kanagawa and depicts a seasonal and geographic view of Mount Fuji. A prefecture is a government territory that is larger than a city or town. In the United States, we might consider a county to be the same as a prefecture. So what we are seeing is how the environment affects the entire geographic area that leads up to this view of Mount Fuji. There are copies of this print in museums around the world, and there is even a copy in Claude Monet’s home. 

Higashiyama Kaii:

Kumo Waku Sankyou is the title of a painting by Higashiyama Kaii. This is a very striking landscape that this artist is famous for painting. There is a story that is told in each of Higashiyama Kaii’s paintings, and that story is the natural beauty we take for granted. Kumo Waku Sankyou is a view down a northern facing valley where to mountain slopes converge. There is an ethereal feeling that draws the viewer deeper into the painting. The landscapes that are painted by Higashiyama Kaii are beautiful beyond the description of words. They spark something within the mind. This painting is a scene of the still morning. That quiet moment before life continues. It is a vista of mountainsides shrouded in fog, and the sky is not quite a day nor is it a night. Higashiyama Kaii has captured the essence of who we are in that instance when we are most vulnerable. The clarity of the image is almost a metaphor of the wildness that humanity has tamed, but never captured. It is a painting that catches the sound and emotes a chill that will vanish as the sun rises. Each of the portraits exudes the artist love of nature. There is such a deep feeling of awe and wisdom that he has captured. Higashiyama has many such paintings. Magnificent landscapes of trees perfectly reflected in calm water or clouds that strike a balance against a perfect sky. His work is like portals that free your mind of the burdens of society, and for a few moments, you also feel the regenerative power of nature. 

Hideo Hagiwara:

Stone Flower: white, yellow is a woodblock print by master artist Hideo Hagiwara that was created in 1960. The print is modern and consists of a flower petal on a stone background. It is a moving piece a visual composition that reminds the viewer of a perfect haiku. There is enough there to paint an image in your mind, to hear a story in a few words, and know the peace of understanding. Many of Hideo Hagiwara’s prints are in this fashion. They are modern and yet they transcend across time to places we have forgotten. They draw from your mind memories of things that were special and then place them on the canvas for the world to see. They are lyrical in form and color, and they exude a presence that must be examined. 

The art of woodblock printing is different. The paint/pigment is forced through the paper from back to front. The result is a textured surface with multi-level hues set as a background. The process is fascinating, the results are uniquely beautiful. Prints are created in lots, and despite the process, no two prints are alike, though they all share qualities which make them not only artists themselves, but a greater piece of art as a set. Prints from this set are found around the world in fine museums such as the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Kichijoji Art Museum. 

The famous artists and art of Japan are absolutely broad in their impact, subject, and media. The three artists discussed here, represent a small collection of topics, style, and media. There is always interest in the hand-drawn calligraphy and the silk paintings as well as the topics of cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji. Japanese art represents glimpses into the history of this fascinating land and the culture of its people. An example would be Ito Shinsui who painted people in the Nihonga style of painting. He studied under Kaburagi Kiyokata and excelled into a master painter and woodblock artist. He rose to astounding heights within Japanese culture. His story is fascinating, but he is just one of Japan amazing masters. The story of his life is told throughout his works of art. Japan is very rich in artists of renowned talent. Many represent bleak times for the nation, either from a natural disaster or from war. Japan has much to offer the world just in art and the brilliance, and dedication of the artists discussed here offer something wonderful for your home or business. These are master artists who’re talents continue to amaze us. 


About the Author:
Clare Tames is a self-employed freelance graphic designer, formidable cook, an avid reader. She wrote on contemporary and classical art in various print publications and is just now beginning a writing career online. She works out of her home office in California, where her two children attend high school. Expect more from her at ArtsHeaven.com and around the web, and, if you like, drop her a line at her Google+ page!