Monthly Archives: October 2011

Japanese painting modern history

Japanese painting modern history

Prewar period (1868-1945)

prewar japaneseThe prewar period was marked by the division of art into competing European styles and traditional indigenous styles.

During the Meiji period, Japan underwent a tremendous political and social change in the course of the Europeanization and modernization campaign organized by the Meiji government. Western style painting (Yōga) was officially promoted by the government, who sent promising young artists abroad for studies, and who hired foreign artists to come to Japan to establish an art curriculum at Japanese schools.

However, after an initial burst for western style art, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction, and led by art critic Okakura Kakuzo and educator Ernest Fenollosa, there was a revival of appreciation for traditional Japanese styles (Nihonga). In the 1880, western style art was banned from official exhibitions and was severely criticized by critics. Supported by Okakura and Fenollosa, the Nihonga style evolved with influences from the European pre-Raphaelite movement and European romanticism.

The Yōga style painters formed the Meiji Bijutsukai (Meiji Fine Arts Society) to hold its own exhibitions and to promote a renewed interest in western art. In 1907, with the establishment of the Bunten under the aegis of the Ministry of Education, both competing groups found mutual recognition and co-existence, and even began the process towards mutual synthesis.

The Taishō period saw the predominance of Yōga over Nihonga. After long stays in Europe, many artists (including Arishima Ikuma) returned to Japan under reign of Yoshihito, bringing with them the techniques of impressionism and early post-impressionism. The works of Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne and Pierre Auguste Renoir influenced early Taishō period paintings. However, yōga artists in the Taishō period also tended towards eclecticism, and there was a profusion of dissident artistic movements. These included the Fusain Society (Fyuzankai) which emphasized styles of post-impressionism, especially fauvism. In 1914, the Nikakai (Second Division Society) emerged to oppose the government-sponsored Bunten Exihibition.

Japanese painting during the Taishō period was only mildly influenced by other contemporary European movements, such as neoclassicism and late post-impressionism. Read the rest of this entry

Japanese painting medieval history

Japanese painting medieval history

kamukara_period

Kamakura period (1185-1333)

These genres continued on through Kamakura period Japan. E-maki of various kinds continued to be produced; however, the Kamakura period was much more strongly characterized by the art of sculpture, rather than painting.

As most of the paintings in the Heian and Kamakura periods are religious in nature, the vast majority are by anonymous artists.

Muromachi period (1333-1573)

muromachi_period

During the 14th century, the development of the great Zen monasteries in Kamakura and Kyoto had a major impact on the visual arts. Suibokuga, an austere monochrome style of ink painting introduced from Sung and Yuan dynasty China largely replaced the polychrome scroll paintings of the previous period, although some polychrome portraiture remained – primary in the form of chinso paintings of Zen monks.Typical of such painting is the depiction by the priest-painter Kao of the legendary monk Kensu (Hsien-tzu in Chinese) at the moment he achieved enlightenment. This type of painting was executed with quick brush strokes and a minimum of detail.

‘Catching a Catfish with a Gourd’ (located at Taizo-in, Myoshin-ji, Kyoto), by the priest-painter Josetsu, marks a turning point in Muromachi painting. In the foreground a man is depicted on the bank of a stream holding a small gourd and looking at a large slithery catfish. Mist fills the middle ground, and the background, mountains appear to be far in the distance. It is generally assumed that the “new style” of the painting, executed about 1413, refers to a more Chinese sense of deep space within the picture plane

By the end of the 14th century, monochrome landscape paintings (sansuiga) had found patronage by the ruling Ashikaga family and was the preferred genre among Zen painters, gradually evolving from its Chinese roots to a more Japanese style.

The foremost artists of the Muromachi period are the priest-painters Shūbun and Sesshū. Shūbun, a monk at the Kyoto temple of Shokoku-ji, created in the painting Reading in a Bamboo Grove(1446) a realistic landscape with deep recession into space. Sesshū, unlike most artists of the period, was able to journey to China and study Chinese painting at its source. Landscape of the Four Seasons (Sansui Chokan; c. 1486) is one of Sesshu’s most accomplished works, depicting a continuing landscape through the four seasons. Read the rest of this entry

Japanese painting early history

Japanese painting early history

japan_paintJapanese painting is one of the oldest and most highly refined of the Japanese visual arts, encompassing a wide variety of genres and styles. As with the history of Japanese arts in general, the long history of Japanese painting exhibits synthesis and competition between native Japanese aesthetics and adaptation of imported ideas.

Ancient Japan and Asuka period (until 710)

The origins of painting in Japan date well back into Japan’s prehistoric period. Simple figural representations, as well as botanical, architectural, and geometric designs are found on Jōmon period pottery and Yayoi period (300 BC – 300 AD)dotaku bronze bells. Mural paintings with both geometric and figural designs have been found in numerous tumuli dating to the Kofun period and Asuka period (300-700 AD).

Along with the introduction of the Chinese writing system (kanji), Chinese modes of governmental administration, and Buddhism in the Asuka period, many art works were imported into Japan from China and local copies in similar styles began to be produced.

Nara period (710-794)

nara_periodWith the further establishment of Buddhism in sixth and seventh century Japan, religious painting flourished and was used to adorn numerous temples erected by the aristocracy. However, Nara period Japan is recognized more for important contributions in the art of sculpture than painting.

The earliest surviving paintings from this period include the murals on the interior walls of the Kondō at the temple Hōryūji in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture. These mural paintings, as well as painted images on the important Tamamushi Shrine include narratives such as jataka, episodes from the life of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, in addition to iconic images of buddhas,bodhisattvas, and various minor deities. The style is reminiscent of Chinese painting from the Sui dynasty or the late Sixteen Kingdoms period. However, by the mid-Nara period, paintings in the style of the Tang dynasty became very popular. These also include the wall murals in the Takamatsuzuka Tomb, dating from around 700 AD. This style evolved into the (Kara-e) genre, which remained popular through the earlyHeian period.

As most of the paintings in the Nara period are religious in nature, the vast majority are by anonymous artists. A large collection of Nara period art, Japanese as well as Chinese Tang Dynasty is preserved at the Shosoin, an eighth-century repository formerly owned by Todai-ji and currently administered by the Imperial Household Agency. Read the rest of this entry

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

Van GoghVincent Willem van Gogh  March 30, 1853 – July 29, 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty, and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died at the age of 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.

Van Gogh loved art from an early age. He began to draw as a child, and he continued making drawings throughout the years leading to his decision to become an artist. He did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during his last two years. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,000 artworks, consisting of around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. His work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes of flowers, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.

Van Gogh spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers, traveling between The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught for a time in England. One of his early aspirations was to become a pastor and from 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he began to sketch people from the local community. In 1885, he painted his first major work The Potato Eaters. His palette at the time consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later work. In March 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later he moved to the south of France and was taken by the strong sunlight he found there. His work grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style which became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888.

The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been a subject of speculation since his death. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill health, modern critics see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence brought about by his bouts of illness. According to art critic Robert Hughes, van Gogh’s late works show an artist at the height of his ability, completely in control and “longing for concision and grace”. Read the rest of this entry