Here is Carla’s report on my essay for Part 3.
Here are some questions she asked–
Regarding the original image by Hokusai, do you know how many prints were made from the original woodcut?
It’s estimated that 5000 to 8000 prints were made
Though thousands were printed, it’s estimated only hundreds of The Great Wave off Kanagawa remain.
Where was it first shown?
likely printed between 1829 and 1832 – When this print was first produced it cost just a bit more to buy than a double helping of Soba noodles.
In 1859, a wave of Japanese prints flowed across Europe, winning adoration from the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Claude Monet.
Is some of the symbolism reliant on an understanding of Japanese culture at the time, and how might those symbols (specifically Mount Fuji, the wave and the specific type of boat) be interpreted differently by today’s audience in other parts of the world?
Mount Fuji is considered sacred by many and has inspired a literal cult following.
This particular rogue wave can actually be measured thanks to the three fishing boats (oshiokuri-bune). Cartwright and Nakamura used their known size to determine The Great Wave off Kanagawa is roughly 32 to 39 feet tall.
Does this highlight any possible changes in interpretation or approach to visual communications over time and place?
The view on Art has changed – over time and place in Japan compared to today’s quick art, impermanence, and visual screen culture. The flow of information and vision is so quick, it looses much of its meaning.
Christine Guth, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London said
“Within Japan, woodblock prints weren’t seen as art, they were seen as a popular form of expression and commercial printing.”
Once used for Buddhist text, woodblock prints had become synonymous with illustrations for poems and romance novels. So, Japan’s government officials and art historians were less than thrilled that such a seemingly lowbrow art form had come to define them.
Some of the points you make that are missing from the essay are:
• The importance of Mount Fuji in terms of providing a sense of scale/distance, as
well as the significance in Japanese culture.
I mentioned in my essay that Mount Fuji was the center grounding point in the composition– because of its importance. I failed to mention that the great wave has become the most famous of his series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.
The mountain has always been considered sacred and some of the original purchasers of the print, ordinary townspeople, were believers in the so-called ‘Fuji cult’. They periodically made group pilgrimages to climb the mountain; although only men were allowed to go all the way to the top.
Mt Fuji is by far the highest mountain in Japan, but in Hokusai’s print it is relegated to the far distance and dwarfed by the gigantic wave in the foreground. The spray from the wave starts to look like snow falling onto the peak of the mountain, a visual joke.
• Details about the types of boats and the cultural significance of these
Fishing boats? Not sure what cultural significance, other than I mentioned their fragility/ man-made
• Commentary from other writers about the images (it can be helpful to include
quotes within the essay to support your own arguments)
Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, “The Mountain,”
Six and thirty times and hundred times
the painter tried to capture the mountain,
tore it up, then pushed on again
(six and thirty times and hundred times)
to the incomprehensible volcanoes,
blissful, full of temptation, without counsel,—
while the outlines of his glory
went on without coming to an end:
Fading a thousand times out of all the days,
nights without comparison from which
dropped, as if they were all too small;
each image at the moment it was needed,
increasing from figure to figure,
not partaking and far and without viewpoint—,
then suddenly knowing, as in a vision,
lifting itself up behind every crevice.
*Rilke revered Hokusai perseverance to capture just the perfect image on Mt.Fuji.
• You often talk of the perfection of composition, but it would be helpful to include a
little more detail about this in your analysis
Perhaps looking at traditional values of Japanese aesthetics such as rule of thirds, asymmetry, balance, harmony, movement.etc
A History of the world, BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/MAPlqOEHRsmI1awIHQzRSQ [1-8-17]
15 Things you may not know about the great wave, Mental Floss, available at http://mentalfloss.com/article/66591/15-things-you-might-not-know-about-great-wave-kanagawa [1-8-17]