Homeward Bound: Ukiyo-e, Japonisme, and Cultural Integration by MutualArt

The West was quick to integrate Japanese techniques into its culture, adapting it to its own worldview, while the Japanese are still reserved about integrating the West unquestioningly.

“Homeward bound! / Beneath the light of the moon / the Ohara maidens / rest their heavy burden / in the shade of flowers.”

This is the poem that accompanies the painting Woman of Ohara Smoking by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎). Yet there are no flowers; there is no shade; there isn’t even a moon. Only a woman smoking, surrounded by empty space. In the art of ukiyo-e, often translated “pictures of the floating world,” the beauty of the scene is confined to a single, composed form, surrounded by an almost supercharged negative space. Paintings like Hokusai’s are distilled for the contemplation of their viewers, allowing them to focus deeply on one small aspect of reality, which would perhaps be overlooked without the careful, calm yet dynamic observation of the artist.

Read the full article at MutualArt Magazine.


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