in Ask Sujatha, My Work, Research, Weekly Journal

Research Paper Proposal – Question 4

Question 4: Compare landscape painting by Guo Xi’s with woodblock print of Mt. Fuji by Hokusai. Consider the following in your discussion: patrons, producers, materials, production, function, and meanings.


Landscape painting is the amalgamation of the artist’s expression of his accumulated experiences in nature and his philosophical view towards the natural world which is richly symbolic as he depicts what the landscape personally embodies for him. The scenery painted often leaves the audiences to ponder in their own imagination as they wish which could provide metaphors for life.

Purpose/General Function/Buildup?

Landscape painting serves as a form of meditative art whereby viewers can get immersed into the art as the artwork takes you through on a journey of the serenity of nature, leaving the viewers with their own imagination to interpret the artwork which could relieve emotional stress, hence separating them from truth and reality momentarily as a way to escape from their daily lives, thus leaving the viewers feeling spiritually refreshed.

Tentative Claim

Figure 1 Old Trees, Level Distance, Northern Song dynasty (960–1127), ca. 1080 Guo Xi (Chinese, ca 1000-ca. 1090); Handscroll; ink and color on silk 13 ¾ x 41 ¼ in. (34.9 x 104.8cm); Source: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Guo Xi’s landscape painting is mostly illustrated with the intent to depict a form of realism whereby he studies the nature elements such as mountains, greenery and lifeforms which he then transfers onto silk and paper marked with a Xuanhe zhongbi seal as seen in Fig 1. Old Trees, Level Distance just as the way he sees it. However, besides the idea of just realism in which he paints in a manner that does not challenge the laws of perspectives, Guo Xi’s intent to show the form of idealism is present as well in his work as he creates multiple perspectives which he calls ‘the angle of totality.’.

Figure 2 Figure 2 Early Spring, Hanging Figure 2 Early Spring, Hanging Scroll , Gui Xi (1010-1090) Ink on Silk. Source: GI

For instance, as seen in Fig 2. Early Spring, Hanging Scroll, we can observe that he attempted to paint the ideal landscape of a Taoist paradise by illustrating a somewhat smoky environment which is idealised to be mythical and powerful for the deities. Also, by including all angles of the mountain which defies the rule of perspective, this painting reeks of idealism. Hence, it is evident that Guo Xi’s painting style treads on both realism and idealism at the same time. – Evidence

  • Talk about who are the donors that commissioned Guo Xi to complete these artworks
    – Guo Xi was a scholar-official, a well-educated painter, likely to be commissioned by the Court/Emperor of the Northern Song Dynasty
  • What’s the purpose of this production
    – The purpose of these paintings were targeted for officials who cannot leave to visit the real landscapes.
  •  State the materials and medium briefly
    – Ink and Colour on Silk


Figure 3 The Cushion Pine at Aoyama in Edo- Katsushika Hokusai’s ukiyo-e print, Katsushika Hokusai Edo period (1615–1868) ca. 1830–32 Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper 9 5/8 x 14 3/4 in. (24.4 x 37.5 cm) Source: Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939

Fig. 3 The Cushion Pine at Aoyama in Edo is one out of thirty-six views of a series that shows the sacred Mount Fuji, produced by Katsushika Hokusai in 1830 when he was seventy years old as he reached the crescendo of his creativity and artistic vigour.


Figure 4 Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), also known as The Great Wave, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei) Edo period (1615–1868) ca. 1830–32 Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper 10 1/8 x 14 15/16 in. (25.7 x 37.9 cm) Source: H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929

Description of Under the Wave off Kanagawa

  • Talk about who are the donors that commissioned them(patrons) to complete these two artwork and,
  • why both the artworks are produced(function)?
  • Compare their materials and medium briefly
  • *Talk about Katsushika Hokusai’s style – juxtaposition and linear perspective

Envisioned Paragraphs

  • Acknowledgement of some similarities in subject matter, degree of realism and medium.
  • Comparison of different style about Guo Xi’s realism + idealism(multiple angles) VS Hokusai’s realism + idealism (Juxtaposition/Linear perspective/Oblique angle/near and far)
  • Discuss whether both paintings serves the same/different purpose (Guo Xi’s targeting officials VS Hokusai’s personal facisnation with Mt Fuji and response to the domestic travel boom)
  • Possible meanings of the painting?

  1. I think the claim should address both works/artists? Like something that compares the two instead of just talking about Guo Xi. This proposal seems to focus quite a bit on the realism+idealism thing so maybe that could be what your claim is based on 😀 e.g. both of them address these broad ideas but through things like (blabla) you can see the differences… etcetcetc? + maybe can evaluate which one more effective/stronger at portraying this… ??? HAHA sorry idek if this is a claim; but just some input (‘:

    • Thank you Phoebe, I appreciate your constructive feedback. I have since revised on my Claim/Thesis Statement as stated below.




      While both Guo Xi’s Old Trees, Level Distance and Hokusai’s Great Wave of Kanagawa are both artworks of landscape through their own idealistic expression, why is the latter more recognised and revered as an iconic piece of Art in their respective localities when placed in comparison despite the possibility of Chinese Idealist Painting being a profound influence on Japanese nanga in its formative phase.

  2. Thanks to Phoebe for the feedback!
    Dear Benji,
    This is a good start! Phoebe is correct that you are certainly interested in realism versus idealism. Then, why not focus on multiple perspectives and linear perspective? The current thesis statement is a bit judgmental. So let’s try to make it more analytical. How can we do this comparison? By comparing what? Will the first part of your thesis address the similarities and the second part address the differences? Where is the bibliography?
    Hope this helps,

    • Revised Introduction paragraph

      (First Sentence)
      Guo Xi’s and Katsushika Hokusai’s landscape artworks are the amalgamation of each individual personal experience and expression of nature and their respective philosophies towards the natural world. 

      – Build up and Visual Evidences – 


      (Claim/Scope of Argument)
      Despite sharing similar philosophies of asserting their ideal reality which are mentally constructed in their minds onto their artworks, the execution and purpose of each artist’s work is largely different in terms of not only the selected medium choices but also their views and play on perspectives. 

      (First part of the body)

      • Acknowledge on the similarity of philosphies(here or build up?)
      • Acknowledge on the similarity of elements that hints at idealism for both Guo Xi’s painting and Hokusai’s woodblock print

        (Second part of the body)

      • Discuss the different philosophy as to how Guo Xi views and paints his Landscape
      • Discuss the different philosophy as to how Hokusai views creates his Landscape (Mt Fuji as a motif?)


  3. So, you are going to focus on how both pieces engage with different forms of realism and different forms of idealism?
    What is the “so, what?” of this thesis statement? In other words, why is it important that the “the execution and purpose of each artist’s work is largely different in terms of not only the selected medium choices but also their views and play on perspectives?”