March 19, 2015

"There is no work of nonwestern art that has a comparable level of recognition."

Than... what? Can you guess?

"'The Great Wave'— formally titled 'Under the Wave off Kanagawa' from the Hokusai series 'Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji'..."
The work was fairly accessible to the Japanese—one scholar has said it went for the price of a large bowl of noodle soup—while the snobbish view of prints inside the country made it easier for the series to travel abroad....

Hokusai had drawn since he was six, but he had a seemingly dim view of his own talents until his 70s, when he created "The Great Wave." In a forward to a book of Mount Fuji prints, he called all his work that came before that time "not worth bothering with."...

"At 75 I’ll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects," he wrote. "When I am 80 you will see real progress. At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At 100, I shall be a marvelous artist. At 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before."


tim maguire said...

I guessed The Mona Lisa. Turns out they are looking for a non-Western art piece. I would have guessed something with Vishnu or the Buddha in it.

Equally wrong.

rehajm said...

Taj Mahal. Fail.

Toby said...

The Sphinx.

Pettifogger said...

I, too, guessed the Mona Lisa.

The sentence says "no work of nonwestern art" is comparably famous. Given that they were talking about a piece of nonwestern art, they should have referred to "no other work of nonwestern art."

MadisonMan said...

King Tut.

EMD said...

Wait, is Marc Chagall "western?"

clint said...

My guess was Taj Mahal. (Then I was trying to decide whether Egypt counted -- because the Sphinx, the Pyramids, or something from King Tut's tomb might rate.)

Before clicking I thought, what if they discount architecture and literature...

Then I thought, of course, Godzilla. Absolutely no contest.

But that's both modern and film.

From photography, not sure if journalism counts, but that image of the man in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square is certainly widely recognizable.

Can't really think of a specific painting or drawing that I would have picked...

chuck said...

Heh, I passed over the Taj Mahal after a bit of thought, and settled on The Great Wave. Bingo. I attribute my success to ignorance. They were the first two works that came to mind and I would struggle to think of more.

EMD said...

The use of the term "art' is very limiting in this view.

Taj Mahal and The Sphinx certainly qualify.

Also, the lens used is a western lens.

The Grand Buddha is wildly popular in China.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

It is incomparably recognizable that those guys in the boats are f*cked.

Beldar said...

Silly premise.

Yes, I know I am probably culturo-centric, and that it's a deficiency in my experience that I know very little about non-Western art.

But you couldn't get a genuine consensus from Westerners about Western art either. Oh, sure -- Mona Lisa would probably lead the way, but it would be only a tiny plurality, and I can immediately think of at least a dozen pieces of Western art that would give it a run for its money.

But if the point is to get people to say, "Gee, I don't know much about non-Western art," then yeah.

Jimmy said...

I made three guesses: First was the Great Buddha of Kamakura, next was Kanagawa Wave, third was Taj Mahal.

Brando said...

How could it be anything other than the Taj Mahal? Or do palaces not count?

I didn't figure on the Sphynx as Egypt is pretty close to "western" at least geographically--due south of Greece and all. Unless "nonwestern" means "nonwhite" in which case these judges are racist and should feel bad about their racism.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

If the category were most recognizable American art, it would be American Gothic, or Dogs Playing Poker.

rhhardin said...

That's bad physics on the wave. Landau and Lifshitz hadn't made it to Japan.

Fernandinande said...

Buddha statues.

Richard Dolan said...

"There is no work of nonwestern art that has a comparable level of recognition."

Says who and based on what? These exercises may tell you something about the person making the claim, but nothing at all about the validity of the claim.

Bob R said...

If you narrow it to painting, it's probably correct. But, as suggested, Taj Mahal is easy. Kig Tut's death mask, Sphinx, Great Pyramid if Egypt is "nonwestern."

What is the most famous Western painting? Is it really the Mon Lisa? A lot of paintings are very famous and better. Starry Night?

bwebster said...

"Hokusai" was the code name for a software project we did at a startup over 20 years ago. The picture itself was used for the application's icon.

Freeman Hunt said...

Ha ha! I guessed right.

American Liberal Elite said...

The Sphinx. I don't recognize the Great Wave.

Freeman Hunt said...

Most famous nonwestern cultures to westerners generally: China and Japan. First piece of Chinese or Japanese art to come to mind--it has to be the wave.

lgv said...

I've seen in as a cover on a friend's Macbook Pro and also as a thank you card.

Yes, it's very popular, very nice and I'm sick of it.

Kristian Holvoet said...

I guessed the 'Terracotta Army' Must be all the times I built in 'Sid Meier's Civilization [n]'

Krumhorn said...

My guess would have been the Terracotta Army. It was a stunning achievement.

- Krumhorn

Krumhorn said...

Oops! Kristian beat me to it.

Quaestor said...

Well, I got it! I thought it had to be Ukiyo-e, and in my mind's eye I summoned up a memory of Katsushika's "Great Wave". Until this afternoon I did not realize the work's full title is "Great Wave Off Kanagawa." Live and learn. I'm an admirer of the Japanese woodblock style, and I have two repro prints framed and hanging in my study, both are scenes with goshawks from the 19th century and attributed to Ohara Koson.

The claim "there is no work of nonwestern art that has a comparable level of recognition" seems dubious to me, though. Rehajm guessed the Taj Mahal, and Toby guessed the Sphinx. I think there's merit in both guesses, and I'd wager money that if you surveyed a thousand random people, say people in Times Square on a warm Sunday afternoon, more could name the Taj Mahal and the Great Sphinx of Geza than could name Katsushika's print.

The question is are they art. In the absolute sense they are all art, particularly the Taj Mahal in its perfection and influence. Some critics however want to limit the class to works produced by the mind and hand of one man. The Sphinx was chiseled out of the native sandstone by a gang of perhaps hundreds of craftsmen, and was altered several times, so it doesn't qualify under either restraint. The Taj Mahal was built by 20,000 labors and designed by serveral architects under the leadership of Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, so it's not one mind and one hand either. But it's nevertheless a great work of art. I'd like to ask Ellen Gamerman about her source for that most recognized claim.

Irene said...

Recognizable enough to inspire a knitting pattern.

Quaestor said...

One thing I like about "Great Wave Off Kanagawa" is how the composition anticipates the Julia sets and other examples from complex dynamics. Notice how the great wave is composed of many smaller waves of virtually the same form as the larger wave.

Michael McClain said...

Piss Christ!?!

Christy said...

I didn't guess right even though it was one of four reproductions of Japanese art I bought for my first dorm room way back when. It's still around someplace.

I've two ~18" terracotta warriors I used on my hearth. They looked good against a yellow brick fireplace surround. Picked them up at a huge decor store outside Miami. Teenaged nephew now has the warriors flanking football trophies. I was so surprised he liked them I couldn't say no.

Clyde said...

I guessed a statue of the Buddha.

Smilin' Jack said...

""There is no work of nonwestern art that has a comparable level of recognition.""


"All your base are belong to us."

Jason said...

Hello Kitty.

But I knew that's not what they were talking about, so I guessed it right. I grew up in Honolulu County, and in the 80s there was a nightclub near Waikiki called The Wave, and it had a giant replica of this painting on the side of the club.

The most iconic single image of Japanese art there is, I think, other than the Imperial Rising Sun and Japanese meatball flag itself. Oh, and the Godzilla costume. And Hello Kitty

And the Power Rangers.

And Pokemon.

And Totoro.

And Speed Racer.

And Sailor Moon.

And Dragonball Z.

And Full Metal Alchemist.

And Fruits Baskets.

And Astro-Boy.

And Kimba the White Lion

And Space Ace.

And Prince Planet.

And the Amazing 3.

Or anything from Studio Ghibli.

Jason said...

Oops. I had Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot in there somewhere, but I deleted him for some reason.

Jason said...

That Yin/Yang thingy.

The heads on Eastern Island.

Those creepy cat statues in restaurants.

The Japanese Schoolgirl Costume itself.

Harijuku girls.

Jason said...

That "Kapu" statuette figure from the Brady Bunch Goes to Hawaii.

EMD said...

Jason is correct.

Hello Kitty is a global icon.

saintrussell said...

It's a very recognizable image to classical music lovers, as a Google image search for "debussy la mer" will confirm.

tim in vermont said...

I guessed the Sphinx, actually I didn't guess it, I answered the question correctly with the Sphinx.

I suppose if you make the argument that Ancient Egypt was a major part of the embryonic West, and I will allow that POV, then the answer is those heads on Easter Island.

tim in vermont said...

That being said, I will be in Boston in April for a Red Sox game, and I will check it out.

EMD said...

I suppose if you make the argument that Ancient Egypt was a major part of the embryonic West, and I will allow that POV, then the answer is those heads on Easter Island.

But they're even farther west than Egypt! ; )

richard mcenroe said...

I for one am amazed "Piss Christ" didn't place.

Jason, you forgot "Space Battleship Yamato" and "Macross." You are dead to me.

Jason said...

I also didn't consider some of the more disgusting hentai.

I don't want to give Laslo any ideas.

Christy said...

Jason! What about Cowboy Bebop?

James Pawlak said...

That "Old Man Mad About Painting" (His name for himself) also offered some of the most fantastic paintings of super-natural beings I have ever seen.

His nose-holding retainer about a "lord" "doing #2" is funny!!!

JCCamp said...

This is one of the more popular images used by or with U S martial arts schools, I suppose because of its popular association with the East generally (not necessarily Japan since it's often used independently of Japanese-centric styles). I never really thought about the doomed sailors in the picture though, until I read this thread (and Eric's post), and then I realized most versions of this I've seen have been cropped to remove the little boats about to get the bugs-on-a-windshield treatment.
Wonder why?

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Ghengis Kahn is art, unless racism rear its head of ugliness.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

What a great quote to highlight.

I commit to donating at least $3 per month to this blog, and blog seems notquiteright as it's a too low term, yet whatever.

I compare ugly to beauty daily.

I compare hate and love.

Or, I compare my comparison of hate and love and think, oh, maybe I should compare hate and ignorance?

Knowledge, compared to bloody stool, is something most likely not to result in actions delightful when concerning, I will rape the term, irronaccialy what irony is supposed to mean.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Fuck you all I call the sun and moon works of art.


Oh they don't fit your category; okay then.

Is Jesus Western?

Jesus is works of art, amongst all other things except the free will to do evil, hence why not Jesus?

Sickle and Hammer is more recognizable than any wave.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

The picture of the mind "Killroy was here" isn't near ubiquitous, yet it suffices moreso to that situational description further than other works, artly, notly, whateverly, but most interestingly despite what your initial thought trains are streaming, certainly non-Western.

Ain't no "Killroy was here" without the non-Western aspects of the beginnings.

Racism has to do with this, like it or not.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Take it or leave it, actually anyone reading this should leave it, but this is 20 minutes work on faith:

I wish I would've started over;
Thanked Him for getting older.
Not made promises unsober.

Dusty pictures on the wall;
frameless memories all;
surely soon some will fall.
And no more standing tall.

I wish I would've started over;
Thanked Him for getting older.
Not made promises unsober.

to be not continued.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I am a Mormon bigot.

It was because of one individual's evil I attributed to the entire religion the evil.

Then I heard Mormons think they are literally (which is a term that should be outlawed for radio host's whom, as objects of this sentence, never ever ever seem to use the simple !^*(%^ term the proper way) Jesus Christ.

Equal to Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ and only evil Mormons and Islamists and Scientologists (oh really?) gain from this type of challenge to truth.

So I accept my bigotry. I don't hate myself for this, although... I hate myself for other things.

Mainly, at under 40 years of age, I can't believe I've been so stupid as to be unmaterialistic.

I knew about Churchill stating "hey you know, laugh out loud, maybe when your like two score, and there's others of you like fucking four score, then, like you'll think a little bit differently and shit."

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Let's talk liquor.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Sir will you allow me time to cogitate a proper response?

I am but a man, and, though, like you I presume, I giggled when Orson told that reporter "In my day we were quicker than that" as a 24 year old directing the still greatest film filmed, precisely yet wildly inaccurately because the Wisconsinite Orson Welles drew attention warranted for reasons known.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Simon Cowell shits.

Crying out loud.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Literraly I fuck up 9/10 times times bad math.


7 times 7 times 7 has a ring.

The great William Frank Buckley Junior, before I descented or whatever into unBuckleyness Extroidanarre,m like a big jerk, as something I could look upon as a positive.
I was driving traffic straight to and so all was right with the world.

I knew the wrongs and failed to address real problems but instead chose to use politicians or internet celebrities to do my bidding.

AKA I failed hard.

I thank only God and my dog for this bountiful plentiful opportune time to have the wonderful glory to learn.

Althouse caused my learning in surprising aspects.

Not enabled or helped or was correlated.


This site is genius.

NotquiteunBuckley said...






"untrol" is how we all retire, seven hours from now in essence, trillionaires.

We untrol the controls.

Untrol party.

Full stop Beck and Ace and whatnot.

You just locked up 78% of the 18-24's bitch.

You are now God.

Untroll It!

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I need Bruce Hayd... to set up a town near La Junta called Essence, Trillionaries.




NotquiteunBuckley said...

It's only, trust me now, it's only about 40 miles East of Pueblo.

Mary Beth said...

The wave as Cookie Monster.

Trashhauler said...

I don't think I've ever seen this picture before. And I've been to Japan many times. I guess I hung out at the wrong places.