Lesson 11: Japanese Art 

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


Japan has a long and fascinating history, serving as a prime example of the acculturation between various Asian cultures, including Chinese art and culture, and the unique culture of the Japanese people. Particularly notable in Japanese art is the rich sense of simplicity and beauty. Cherry blossoms and the symmetrically shaped Mount Fuji are emblematic symbols of beauty for the Japanese. It’s no wonder that there are numerous art objects, prints, and paintings in Japanese art featuring these symbols of beauty. You can find these symbols, for example, in the woodblock prints of the artist Okada Koichi (1907-1991), such as “Mount Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi” and “Evening View of Mount Fuji from Nihondaira,” both from the series “Twelve Views of Japan.”

De berg Fuji vanaf het Meer van Kawaguchi, van Okada Koichi. De kersenbloesem en de symmetrisch gevormde vulkaan Fuji zijn voor de Japanners typerende symbolen van schoonheid. 
Locatie: Deze Japanse houtblok prent van Okada Koichi maakt deel uit van de collectie van de Gooise Galerie. ©Ronnie Rokebrand.
Image: “Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi” by Okada Koichi. Cherry blossoms and the symmetrically shaped Mount Fuji are emblematic symbols of beauty for the Japanese.
Location: This Japanese woodblock print Fuji from Lake Kawaguci by Okada Koichi is part of the collection of the Gooise Gallery, an online gallery in the Netherlands. ©Ronnie Rokebrand.

Other examples include Japanese woodblock prints featuring Mount Fuji by the 19th-century artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), namely “Seashore at Kubota in Awa Province” and “Fuji on the Left of the Tokaido” (see the main image of this webpage), both from the series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.” He created these woodblock prints in 1891.

The Influence of Religion on Japanese Art

Around 550 AD, Buddhism spread across the Japanese islands. Buddhism primarily focused on the memory of the historical Buddha, Sakyamuni, and Maitreya, the Buddha of the future referred to as Miroku in Japan. Additionally, within Buddhism, there was significant emphasis on the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, known as Kannon and Kwannon in Japan. It’s no wonder that you can find their images in Buddhist temples in Japan.

The Capital City of Nara

Buddhism even became the state religion during the time when Nara was the capital of the island nation. The 18-meter-high Buddha statue in the Todaiji Temple, which is the tallest wooden building in the world at 49 meters, and the Horyuji Temple, the oldest wooden structure in the world, serve as reminders of this period.

De tempel Todaiji in de stad Nara. Het gebouw stant uit het jaar 749, maar werd in 1709 gerestaureerd.
Image: The Todaiji Temple, seen through the trees, stands at 49 meters in height, making it the largest wooden building in the world. Originally, the structure was even larger, but it was restored and reduced in size in 1709. It was claimed at the time that the roofs above the building floated rather than rested on the pillars and walls, an impression it still conveys with a little imagination. The temple also houses the largest bronze Buddha in the world, the Daibatsu. The bronze Buddha statue was cast in the year 749 AD. Approximately 1,100 sika deer roam freely around the temple, and their presence refers to the place of Sarnath in India, where Buddha achieved enlightenment in a deer park. From the 8th century, the Todaiji Temple served as the administrative center of Japanese monasteries.
Location: The Todaiji Temple is situated in Nara Park, at the foot of Mount Kasuga, in the ancient imperial capital of Nara on the main Japanese island of Honshu. © Ronnie Rokebrand.

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