Why Does Everyone Hate Jonathan Jones?


Jonathan Jones against Hokusai’s Fuji

I am adding this post as an addition to our recent ‘scoop’ on the exciting prospect that the little known carnival float designed, painted and carved by Hokusai may be loaned to the British Museum for its forthcoming show of his work, Beyond the Great Wave, in May this year. The excellent critic, Jonathan Jones previewed the exhibition in his column in the Guardian newspaper on the 11th of January It was a perfectly reasonable article pointing out what this blog, and the Toshidama Gallery have been propounding for years, that Japanese woodblock prints of the nineteenth century remain undervalued and that furthermore, there is more than a little xenophobia or at least resistance to the extraordinary influence that Japanese visual arts made on the development of early modernism in painting, architecture and design.


William Merrit Chase, My Daughter Alice 1896

Except, except, except… it is apparently a quite unreasonable article after all – at least to the seemingly hundreds of internet trolls that have posted slighting and gauche comments in the ‘below the line’ section of the online edition. I really don’t understand the impulse to do this. The same can be said about the literally hundreds of excellent articles that Jones has posted in this time. It is baffling that visual art should enrage the online commentators so much. It is not uncommon for relatively dry pieces about contemporary art to attract several hundred comments, many of which are vitriolic, some of which are filled with anger and the kind of supressed rage that I imagine most people reserve for really very toxic or distressing subjects… not painting and sculpture. It is possible perhaps that some of these people are artists who have failed to gain recognition and perhaps feel thwarted by what they see are the unreasonable rewards of contemporary artists such as Tracy Emin. Indeed, even in something as innocuous and removed as the article on Hokusai, someone managed to drag up a slighting reference to Emin, whereas someone else simply felt justified in insulting Mr Jones simply for the hell of it…

Hokusai and other great Japanese artists are not news to art lovers, Mr Jones – though to you, apparently. And when you can write such generalised and meaningless sentences about Hokusai such as ‘a richly developing and complex oeuvre of great human profundity’, or ‘He captures the human condition’, I wonder if you’re the best person to expound on his work.

Whilst yet another reponded…

Or on any form of art whatever.

Well, at least the article is doing the job of generating interest in what Jonathan Jones rightly points out is an artist whose true brilliance and influence does remain undervalued even today. To readers here who do not suffer from a misplaced or aggrieved sense of their own worth, I can only recommend Jones’ column as an oustanding corrective to less insightful popular criticism.


Kuniyoshi 1842. The Suffering Critic






About toshidama

Toshidama Gallery sells original nineteenth century Japanese woodblock prints. We source our prints from around the world and only stock original, authenticated works of museum quality.
This entry was posted in British Museum, Hokusai, Japanese prints, japanese woodblock prints, ukiyo-e and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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