Waves at Matsushima

A Renowned, But Forgotten, 17th-Century Japanese Artist Is Once Again  Making Waves | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian Magazine

Title: Waves at Matsushima

Creator: Tawaraya Sotatsu

Material/Medium: Ink, Color, Gold, and Silver on paper

Date: 1620s

Culture: Japanese (Edo Period)

Dimensions: H x W (overall [each]): 166 x 369.9 cm (65 3/8 x 145 5/8 in)

Repository: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Description: Our readings and class discussions have certainly helped me understand the concepts that Waves at Matsushima portrays. This screen painting consists of six panels (which are very large at 65 inches tall by just about 12 feet wide) which depict waves almost overtaking smaller islands. This screen painting just symbolizes Japan for me in the sense that Japan is an island itself and this painting is just a smaller version. The waves in this screen painting take up much more space than the land does. The precision and detailing put into the waves demonstrates how much effort Sotatsu put into the waves as the center-point for this piece. This screen painting will certainly come back into discussions in our class in the future when we discuss The Great Wave by Hokusai. Both artists have put so much effort into the interpretation of waves in their respective crafts. On the other hand, this is much different than Tohaku’s art due to the prevalence of all of the colors. We spoke a large amount in our group in class and as well as the entire class about Sotatsu’s use of color in this painting. Although much earlier than the period of impressionism, this reminds me of that movement. The waves are seen only to be a tan color, however, the islands and land are bursts of color in the otherwise monotone painting. This could be a symbol of a place that is considered safety or the end point of a journey through the sea. Although the waves take up the majority of the painting, our eyes are immediately drawn to the colorful islands.





Author: Matthew Giuttari

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