Aesthetics of colours in Japanese traditional paintings and woodblock prints in the Edo Period




Wang, Siying

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The aim of this thesis is to examine and study Japanese traditional colours: gold and red for the Kanō school, blue and purple for the ukiyoe, including their symbolic meanings, pigments, how they were applied in art works and how they were related to Japanese aesthetics. This thesis is comprised of four chapters: the Introduction, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and Conclusion. The introduction indicates the research purpose, theory, and research method. It also demonstrates the reason why the four colours and the two schools were selected. A combination of western colour theory, represented by Goethe, and Asian colour theory, represented by Five-elements theory and Confucius, is used in the following studies. In Chapter 2, studies on the colour gold and red for the Kano school are presented. These show that Japanese aesthetics is not a simple concept, but an aggregation of conflicting senses of values. The thesis then examines the colour blue and purple for the ukiyoe in Chapter 3. The two colours illustrate the concept of Japanese aesthetics, especially wabi-sabi, 侘び寂び, shibui, 渋い, and iki, 粋”. In the two detailed central chapters, the thesis provides readers with resourceful charts and pictures of paintings that are helpful to understand the statement. Finally, the thesis concludes the studies on Japanese traditional colours and their relations to Japanese aesthetics. This thesis hopes to not only help scholars in the field of Japanese traditional art and art history, but also offer some inspiration to readers who are doing research on Japanese contemporary design and modern art.



Color, Asian art, Japanese painting