The Art of Asia Essay

The Art of Asia

            From “The Art of Asia,” I chose the ukiyo-e, or the “floating world,” collection that featured art from the Edo Period of 1615-1868. This art form grew from the patronage of the middle class, who at this time had become financially stable enough to support it. For them, this art was one of many escapes from their regimented lifestyle of rules and customs (Explore).

I chose this collection due to its free flowing nature and elegant line style.

            One of the paintings that stood out in this collection was Three Notable Scenes of Segawa—Left by Kiyomasu II Torii Magobe Urokgataya. This woodblock clearly shows the quality of line used by the artists in this period. Each element of his clothing and body are connected as one, and fitting the name of this style, he seems to “float” on the page. There is a subtle hint of movement in the diagonal positioning of his arms and sword (Urogatay).

            Another woodblock from this set is Kanpei’s Wife Okaru by Utamaro Kitagawa. Her figure flows from head down to sweeping robe, with the same floating quality. The colors are subtle, and he makes use of bolder lines to accent her form. She is almost shapeless, with little hint of ground beneath her feet (Kitagawa). Kitagawa was considered one of the premier artists of this time period (Utamaro’s Women).

            From viewing these works, I discerned the wish for escape by the middle class in the floating, sweeping lines and forms of these scenes. But, there is still a hint of the rigidity of life in the detail of costume and appearance in the figures portrayed. The artists seem to want to lift the tension out of the life of these individuals, so that they can walk free within a society that regiments their every move. Their use of line and form portray this feeling clearly.

“Explore the Collection:  Featured Collection Ukiyo-e.” Minneapolis Institute of the Arts.

25 May 2010 <


Urogatay, Kiyomasu II Tori Magobe. Minneapolis Institute of the Arts “Three Notable

Scenes of Segawa—Left.” 25 May 2010 <


“Utamaro’s Women.” Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. 25 May 2010 < http://www>

Kitagawa, Utamaro. “Kanpei’s Wife Okaru.” Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. 25 May

2010 <>