Arts & Crafts

Katsushika Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎, ?October 31, 1760 – May 10, 1849) was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period.

The rise of edo pop-art

In the state that emerged under the leadership of the Tokugawa shogunate, organized religion played a much less important role in people's lives, and the arts that survived were primarily secular. Art from 1603 to 1945 (Edo period and Prewar period) were supported by merchants. Counter to Edo period and Prewar period, art of Postwar period was changed to the art which is supported by people as consumers.

With the rise of popular culture in the Edo period, a style of woodblock prints called ukiyo-e (浮世絵) became a major art form and its techniques were fine tuned to produce colorful prints of everything from daily news to schoolbooks. Fans and critics of anime who take a historical perspective note the pronounced aesthetic influence of many of Japan's classical traditions, particularly that of ukiyo-e and the work of Hokusai, the iconoclastic and prolific artists who incorporated European influences into his work and revolutionized Japanese art. Hokusai is credited with inventing the term "manga" (漫画, マンガ) to identify his smaller, offhand sketches, many of which depict subject that were considered to be too lowbrow to merit artistic rendering.

Karakuri ningyō

Karakuri ningyō (からくり人形) are mechanized puppets or automata from Japan from the 17th century to 19th century. The word karakuri means "mechanisms" or "trick".

During 265-year peaceful time in Edo, topnotch technologies had been utilized not for armament but used in the field of entertainment; the technologies attained the highest level in the world. After Tokugawa Yoshimune (徳川 吉宗; 1684 ― 1751, the 8th shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate) enacted the sumptuary legislation, and banned new technology developments except ones for festival, playhouse and show tent In 1721, high-tech people had flocked into the field. They exerted their inventiveness and elaborated gadgets to draw attention from connoisseurs and patrons ― wealthy merchants. The relationship between creators and connoisseurs has generated a synergistic effect on Japanese Monozukuri (ものづくり) characterized by its obsessiveness with details and quality, and continuous kaizen (改善), at the same time making the accounts balance.

The Japanese, in this period, found sculpture a much less sympathetic medium for artistic expression; most Japanese sculpture is associated with religion, and the medium's use declined with the lessening importance of traditional Buddhism.

Feature Story

  • A dichotomy in Japanese art after the period of isolation

    The introduction of Western cultural values led to a dichotomy in Japanese art, as well as in nearly every other aspect of culture, between traditional values and attempts to duplicate and assimilate a variety of clashing new ideas.

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  • Art techniques in Amime & Manga

    Managa is an art form in which expressive elements: drawing, typography, graphic design, and panel layout are highly integrated. The expressive techniques hold true for Anime, and make it a sophisticated art form.

  • The ukiyo-e (浮世絵 perspective

    With the rise of popular culture in the Edo period, a style of woodblock prints called ukiyo-e characterized by the aesthetic two-dimensional forms, the absence of western notion of perspective became a major art form.

Reference Columns

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  • 東洲斎 写楽, Tōshūsai Sharaku

    Tōshūsai Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795) is widely considered to be one of the great masters of the woodblock printing in Japan. Little is known of him, besides hisukiyo-e prints; neither his true name nor the dates of his birth or death are known with any certainty. His active career as a woodblock artist seems to have spanned just ten months in the mid-Edo period of Japanese history, from the middle of 1794 to early 1795.