AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

Explaining Ukiyo-e

by David Bell

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 2011
Keywords: ukiyo-e; japanese art
Record ID: 1297876
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/598


The term ukiyo-e refers to a distinctive phenomenon in Japanese art. Ukiyo-e can be defined temporally, geographically and socially; most importantly, it developed its own distinctive stylistic character. Most studies of ukiyo-e have been founded on a descriptive mode: they have sought to define its principal characteristics, and to describe the different projects of its various schools and artists. Recent research has shifted into a more explanatory mode, locating explanations of ukiyo-e's distinctive pictorial character in descriptions of the socio-cultural context to which it pertained. This project seeks to establish richer explanations for the pictorial character of ukiyo-e. It argues that appropriate explanations may be found through a critical appraisal of the conditions which constrained and stimulated the enterprises of ukiyo-e artists. It finds these conditions to be manifest in the conceptual foundations that informed its artists; in the ways artists learned the knowledge and skills of their craft; in the sorts of function ukiyo-e pictures were required to perform; and in two conditions of the artists' medium: pictorial devices or conventions and the spatial constraints of their media, and the material conditions with which they worked. No matter how closely works of ukiyo-e artists conformed to a pictorial character common to the school as a whole, each individual also followed an independent pathway. The final chapter acknowledges the ways individual artsists were disposed to work differently within the auspices of the broader enterprise.