Hokusai: La gran ola de Kanagawa, 1823-1829.
Hokusai, The Big Wave of Kanagawa,
1823-1829, Engraving, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

     Before beginning our exposition we have to talk about the importance of Japanese art for this movement and the conditions it implied.
Aristocrats in 17th century used to collect objects as fans and porcelains. In 19th century they prefer engravings. Whistler is one of the first who valuates and collects them. In 1868 Japan opens his doors to Occident that begins to know the so-called ukiyo-e-hanga, word created by Samuel Bing. Engravings are shown in Europe and become important because of the novelties they offered. They had a big impact as they made a renewal of representative systems. These Ukiyo created the possibility of finding a new form for reality. Painture they show reflects a fleeting and superficial world. As use to be for novelties, appreciation of these works by high class persons was difficult. Painters in 1880's decade found in these pictures important discoverings to renew art:
  • They recover drawing and line, showing an attitude far from Impressionism.
  • Color will be applied in big flat surfaces with neither shades nor lost of intensity in distances.
  • Drawing can express qualities of matter, form and, even, volume.
  • They transmit a cosmic vision from minimal objects.
  • Painters can reproduce still and static features, as those expressed in the concept of photograph.
  • They value the fact of leaving surfaces without recovering.
  • There is a new organization of space: diagonal and horizon line are often in a high position in order to offer figures in a proportional order.
  • They use different points of view: so compositions can result asymmetrical and out of center.
  • They practice original frames.
  • They prefer extended formats.
  • There is an interest in details.
  • They transmit a pleasant image of life, just as Impressionism did.
  • They are interested in unusual situations.
  • They draw silhouettes.
     In short: they avoid old conventional rules. These novelties will affect artists as Gauguin, Lautrec, Van Gogh and even Matisse.

Written by:
Beatriz AragonÚs Escobar.
Licenciada in History of Art

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