Art & Perspective

Kume no sennin

This print, Kume No Sennin, is significant because it expresses key symbols and life lessons of Taoism. The subject of this print is Kume the Japanese Immortal, a renowned recluse who mastered the power to travel through the air at will. The sight of a young woman revealing her legs while washing clothes caused Kume to lose his concentration and fall from the sky. According to Taoist belief, immortals may be promoted or demoted for their actions. Some immortals are also simply exalted humans with faults and desires. The Taoist view of sexuality and the body is viewed as a positive asset, and mind and body are not set in contrast or opposition with each other. Sex is treated as a vital component to romantic love; however, Taoism emphasizes the need for self-control and moderation. Kume loses his self-control and moderation therefore he falls from the sky. Taoist thought generally focuses on nature and the relationship between humanity and the cosmos (“Floating World”). Tao literally means “the way” but can also be interpreted as a road, channel, path, doctrine, or line. In this print Tao is represented as a channel.

Without annotation a viewer who knows nothing or little about Japanese history and Taoism would not receive the message in which the artist was trying to convey. Therefore annotation is very helpful in the understanding of a work of art in depth as well as provide a better understanding on the print’s subject, the artist, and the time period in which it conveys and was created. These unspoken contexts are vital in one’s comprehension of an art work. This practice can be very useful in my major, Anthropology. My major requires a lot of analyzation on art created in times in which there was no written language, therefore the art can give insightful information on a culture where there is no written description.

Ashley Brown

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