A Comparative Criticism of Ukiyo-e ArtsL Hokusai's Behind the Wave off Kanagawa and Hiroshige's Nagakubo

I like Katsushika Hokusai’s Behind the Wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave) in comparison to Utagawa Hiroshige’s Nagakubo, no 28 series The 69 Stations of the Kisokaido because of the pieces representation of the artist’s nationalistic struggles and rich color palette.

The dominant focus of Ukiyo-e art is on the lives and interests of Japan’s merchant class shown through the motif of landscape. Embodied through Hokusai’s works, prominent aspects of the eras successes and struggles can be seen, especially within The Great Wave; both in relation to Hokusai’s personal life and the life of the Japanese Empire.

The symbolism found within Hokusai’s late Edo era piece is what captures the audience’s interest the most.

The Great Wave is an impactful wood cut ukiyo-e piece that was composed in 1832 centered around Mt. Fuji and a rogue wave threatening Oshiokuri-bune boats off the coast of the prefecture of Kanagawa. Mt. Fuji is often seen as a symbol of sacred identity and of beauty reflective of the nature the Japanese empire; Mt.

Fuji is a symbol of Japanese pride. The boats within the open waters are Oshiokuri-bune boats known for their speed and transportation of fish a representation of the merchant class. The approaching wave that encircles Mt. Fuji, emphasising the mountains presence, or rather of the Shogunate, is a representation of the growing Jesuit presence within the empire and its threat to the stability of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Accented by the pieces rich blend of blues and whites, The Great Wave’s representation of Christianities threat to the stability of Japan’s stability makes this my favorite Ukiyo-e work.

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I dislike Utagawa Hiroshige’s Nagakubo, no 28 series The 69 Stations of the Kisokaido because of the pieces mundane, nontraditional Ukiyo-e nature and bland color palette. Yet another ukiyo-e piece, Utagawa Hiroshige’s Nagakubo, no 28 series The 69 Stations of the Kisokaido is a color wood cut composed between 1835 and 1840.

Although reflective of mercantile life in the Tokugawa Shogunate’s Edo era Japan, Nagakubo lacks the numerous intellectual aspects that many ukiyo-e works are known for, the most prominent being symbolism. Hiroshige produced thousands of works often based around women, popular actors and other scenes of urban pleasure districts of Edo era Japan going against the more traditional themes of ukiyo-e at the time. Hiroshige’s seemingly meaningless, mass-produced, portrayal of Japan is a portion of what ruins Nagakubo. Nagakubo is simply something aesthetically pleasing, failing to penetrate the surface layer of landscape art, unlike Hokusai’s The Great Wave which tells the story of the religious struggle and stability within Edoera Japan.

The original print of Hiroshige’s Nagakubo, is quite beautiful utilizing a sophisticated combination of contrasting colors to convey Japan’s merchant classes late night mercantile lifestyle; however within the reprint much of the original color that made the piece beautiful had been whitewashed, making for a very mundane and boring art piece.

Katsushika Hokusai’s Behind the Wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave) is superior to Utagawa Hiroshige’s Nagakubo, no 28 series The 69 Stations of the Kisokaido because of the pieces representation of Hokusai’s nationalistic struggles and rich color palette whereas Hiroshige’s Nagakubo is presented in a mundane light, with a bland whitewashed color palette, going against the ukiyo-e norm, lacking in underlying cultural meaning and symbolism.

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A Comparative Criticism of Ukiyo-e ArtsL Hokusai's Behind the Wave off Kanagawa and Hiroshige's Nagakubo. (2022, May 09). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-comparative-criticism-of-ukiyo-e-artsl-hokusai-s-behind-the-wave-off-kanagawa-and-hiroshige-s-nagakubo/

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