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Art Through Time: A Global View

The Urban Experience Compare: Can an Urban Landscape Be Experienced Through Representation?

Night View of Saruwaka-machi (Saruwaka-machi Yoru no Kei) from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)

Night View of Saruwaka-machi (Saruwaka-machi Yoru no Kei) from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)

Artist / Origin: Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858)
Region: East Asia
Date: 1856
Period: 1800 CE – 1900 CE
Material: Color woodblock print
Medium: Prints, Drawings, and Photography
Dimensions: H: 13 ¼ in. (33.8 cm.), W: 8 2/3 in. (22.5 cm.)
Location: Musée Claude Monet, Giverny, France
Credit: Courtesy of Giraudon/Bridgeman Art Library

View of Delft

View of Delft
Artist / Origin: Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632–1675)
Region: Europe
Date: ca. 1660–1661
Period: 1400 CE – 1800 CE
Material: Oil on canvas
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 38 in. (96.5 cm.), W: 45 ½ in. (115.7 cm.)
Location: Royal Picture Gallery, Mauritshuis, The Hague, The Netherlands
Credit: Courtesy of Art Resource, NY/Photo by Erich Lessing

Can an urban landscape be experienced through representation?

A number of factors can shape the way one looks at and relates to a city—one’s social class, gender, profession, identity as a resident or visitor, native or foreigner, etc. The artist who hopes to find a buyer for scenes of a particular city must, therefore, consider his or her audience carefully. What will that audience want to see in the city? What will that audience expect from it? Both Hiroshige in his Edo street scene and Vermeer in his Delft cityscape appeal to the aesthetic tastes, cultural values, and economic means of their intended viewers.

Questions to Consider

  • The Japanese street scene is a print. The Dutch cityscape is a painting. How would media in each case have impacted cost and circulation? How do you think these works were meant to be viewed and by whom?
  • One of these views shows us the city from within. In the other, we are looking at the cityscape from a vantage point in the distance. How is each of these effects achieved visually? How does the point of view—within or without—shape your experience of the work? How do you think it furthered each work’s purpose in its original context?
  • Dutch paintings of cityscapes and landscapes are often described as having a “reality effect.” What do you think this means? Do you think Vermeer’s View of Delft is any more “real” than Hiroshige’s Night View of Saruwaka-machi? Explain.

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Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
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  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2