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Back to Japan

Japanese Art  

 

 

 

 

 

japanese_actor-art.jpg (18436 bytes)There are many historical movements in Japan's fine arts.   Up until the sixth century, pottery was found that displayed a restrained and sophisticated aesthetic characterized by refined shpaes and light, geometric decorations.  Bell shaped bronzes were also found, know as dotaku, which were probably derived from Korean musical instrument are thought to have functioned as symbols of authority.

From 710-794, Japanese culture was modeled after the Tang Dynasty in China, but by 1185 the direct influence of continental culture shifted to a Japanese-style aristocratic culture that flowered and matured.  

 


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Esoteric Buddhism dominated art during the ninth century, it's complex cosmology was depicted in mandalas.  Later esoteric Buddhism gave way to the Jodo (Pure Land) sect.  This period also saw major developments in yama-to-se, or secular Japanese-style painting, most notably emaki (illustrated scrolls), which matched pictures to the unfolding of a story in poetry or prose.  During the next period emaki further developed and flourished as pictorial narratives of wars and illustrated biographies.

 

In Edo, ukiyo-e (woodblock prints of everyday life) came into vogue among the common people in the mid-eighteenth century.  Thus followed the golden age of of ukiyo-e, characterized by colorful prints of actors and beautiful women.

  During this time Katsushika Hokusai and Ando Hiroshige adopted the Western method of drawing in perspective introduced by such painters as Shiba Kokan through Nagasaki, the only port open to foreign trade.  Their landscapes opened a new phase in ukiyo-e.

Full scale contact with Western art following the Meiji Restoration created in Japan a new tradition of Western-style painting (yoga), mainly in oils, in addition to influencing the time-honored Japanese style of painting (Nihonga).  Contemporary Japanese art has been strongly influenced by postwar American pop art and other art forms.

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THE INFLUENCE OF BUDDHISM AND CHINA

With the arrival of Buddhism from Korea and China there was a movement toward painting, especially with the ruling class taking such interest in the Buddhist culture and religion.  Painting during the seventh and eight centuries mimicked styles started in China with illustrations of Buddha's life and other deities of Buddhism.  Painting became greatly affected by Joko Shinko (Pure Land Buddhism) after the tenth century.

With the ruling class' encouragement,  construction was started in different areas for temples and monastic compounds during the sixth and seventh centuries.  Buddhist art was commissioned for the temples, especially in the halls and chapels.  Some examples are Asukadera, Shitennoji and Horyuji.  Some of the most important paintings of this period can be found in Horyuji's Golden Hall which contains murals.  In the temples there are also sculptures that represent the various Buddhas and other deities.

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Yamato-e started to replace the Chinese painting style in the middle of the Heian period.  This style can be found on sliding and folding screen and it shows or depicts the Kyoto scenery.  The album leaf and the illustrated handscroll (emaki) are two types of painting formats that came along at the same time.  The most  famous emaki painting can be found in the Tales of Genji (published circa 1130).

With power changing to the samurai from the nobility, the nobility managed to keep a vast amount of their wealth and were patrons of different styles of art.   Typical examples of the nobilities taste in art can be found in conservatism.  This along with realism, the samurais choice of art, were two major trends found in the Kamakura period (1185-1333).

The introduction of architecture and artistic work different from that of other sects came about with Zen Buddhism in the thirteenth century.  Ink painting became the art style of choice in the prominent Zen monasteries of Kamakura and Kyoto, thus taking over scroll painting styles.  Plain and severe monochrome styles were preferred by Zen painters and their patrons with it's introduction from Sung (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368), China.   Near the end of 1400, these painters (and patrons) began to prefer monochrome landscape painting (suibokuga).

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