Narrowing down the research question

Reviewing the work I have done so far leads to a research question that involves the study of Japanese prints and paintings and their influence on the west. This would be a very wide topic to integrate with the Body of Work so it would work better to restrict the period of study. The period 1840-1940 could work well in that it covers a number of major aspects e.g. Japonisme, Orientalism and the introduction and development of photography.


My attempts at a research question as they evolved:

Initial idea

My initial idea for the course, as presented at the start of Part 1 of this course was to look at how Flowers have been represented in Art through the ages and in different countries. I would look at how contemporary flower photography may have been influenced by previous art forms. This was a statement of the general area I was interested in looking at rather  than a specific research proposal.

How has Asian Art influenced contemporary flower photography?

This was the first specific research question that I devised. It seemed very broad so I decided to make it a bit more specific.

To what degree were the flower photographs of Imogen Cunningham and Irving Penn influenced by Asian Art?

This was my attempt at a more specific question and is one that I submitted to my tutor when I had finished Exercises 1-3 of Part 1 of the course. In discussion we greed that not only was it still probably too broad, but also, what would be the end result of the research if I could find no relationship between Asian art and the two photographers?

What is the influence of Japanese flower painting on contemporary photography?

During the discussion with my tutor it was suggested that looking at Japanese art and Japonisme could be a starting point for the research question. It would allow me to link in with my original intention of photographing flowers for my Body of work. However the link (or possible lack of) with contemporary photography could still be problematic.

Images of Flowers in Japan and the West; 1840 – 1940

My tutor suggested that a comparative study of how flowers are represented in Japanese and Western art could be an acceptable research project, it did not have to be a specific question as such. I thought the period 1840 – 1940 would be appropriate as it covers the concept of Japonisme (and Orientalism), as well as the discovery of photography and its development right up to the first colour film.

From Hokusai to O’Keefe – A comparative study of flowers in art from Japan and the West

This meets the criteria suggested by my tutor of a comparative study. It will look at paintings, prints and photographs from Japan and the West and compares and contrasts them. It begins with the end of the Edo period in Japan, looks at Japonisme and considers its possible effect on flower paintings. It also looks at photographs of flowers from both Japan and the West. The period covered is roughly the same as the 1840 – 1940 suggested in the previous topic.