When you think of famous Japanese painters, does Hokusai come to mind?
But Japanese art is more than just that.
This article introduces the history of Japanese art, especially Japanese painting, while also showing its relation to Chinese painting.
The ancestors of Japanese painting were court painters of the Sung dynasty
In Japan, there is a word “Gokusai-shiki” which means “very saturated colors.
It means “highly saturated colors,” and is now often used in a negative sense, such as “harsh” or “too gaudy.
Originally, however, it meant “thickly colored, dense, and detailed coloring.
The dictionary also lists the meaning as “dense coloring using a variety of vivid colors.
Now, these vividly colored paintings.
There are works that are several centuries old, but have been very well preserved and have not lost their vividness.
For example, the gold background of an 18th-century painting of swallow-tail flowers is not dull, and the vivid blues and greens have not peeled off.
Works painted with techniques handed down from the olden days can still be seen and enjoyed today, thanks to the traditional and correct use of Japanese painting pigments.
These colorful Japanese paintings actually have their roots in China.
They were created by court painters who served emperors such as Emperor Chou-tsung during the Song dynasty (960-1279).
Who is Emperor Chou-tsung?
But in Japan, he is known as a person who left behind a very famous painting.
This is the “Peach Dove” painting.
It is a masterpiece and a national treasure.
Emperor Huizong established the Hallym Painting Academy, an institution for the production of paintings at court, which is now called the University of Fine Arts.
The emperor Huizong established the Hallym Painting Academy, an institution for painting at court, and created a graceful style of painting called “Northern Song painting (yintai painting),” in which flowers and birds are depicted in a realistic manner.
The above painting of Peach Dove is one of the Northern Song paintings.
Court painters of the Sung dynasty excelled in the coloring methods of Northern Song painting, and this lineage flourished most widely across the Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties, and had a great influence on the well-known Japanese ink and wash painter Sesshu.
The court paintings of China’s Song Dynasty, Northern Song paintings, are the roots of Japanese painting!
Japanese painting began in the Heian Esho, the Tosa Family!
So what is the history of Japanese painting in Japan?
In the Heian period (794-1185), the Kose school was active, including Kose-no-Kanaoka, who started Yamato-e paintings such as “The Tale of Genji Picture Scroll.
A disciple of Kose-no-Kinmochi, a child of Kose-no-Kanaoka, was Kasuga Motomitsu (Fujiwara Motomitsu), the founder of the Tosa School.
At first, the school was called the Kasuga school, but when his grandson, Kasuga Noritaka, moved to Tosa, it became known as the Tosa school.
The Tosa family painted Buddhist images, customs, war stories, and the lives of many people regardless of their status.
However, even though they painted a wide variety of subjects, all of them were painted in very beautiful colors.
This is a bit complicated, but in Japan, the traditional painting style (Yamato-e) was passed down from the Kose-ha to the Kasuga-ha and then to the Tosa-ha.
It all started in Japan with the Kose-ha, who started Yamato-e!
Then the Tosa school took over the Yamato-e technique!
The Development of Japanese Painting!
The famous Kano school began in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) and continued its history until the Edo period (1603-1868).
However, who started it? may be surprisingly hard to remember.
The founder of the Kano school is said to be a man named Kano Masanobu.
During this period, he painted many ink and wash pictures like Sesshu, rather than the gilded and glossy paintings that were painted later in his career. He was actually a grand-disciple of Sesshu’s master.
And the second generation, his child Kano Motonobu (Kohogan), was also a painter.
He had better skills than his father, Masanobu, and once painted a genre painting emaki, a joint work of husband and wife, with Chiyome Mitsuhisa, the daughter of Tosa Mitsunobu, a painter of the Tosa school, as his wife.
The genre picture picture scrolls and the portrait picture scrolls that Motonobu painted using the Yamato-e coloring method were the beginning of Motonobu Kano’s application of the Tosa family’s coloring techniques.
Several generations later, the son of Kano Takanobu Kano Tanyu, the son of Kano Takanobu, was greatly respected by Tokugawa Ieyasu after he answered his call.
Tanyu is considered to be the painter who changed the style of Japanese painting by creating a blend of the Tosa and Kano schools, both in appearance and style.
He had two younger brothers, Kano Naonobu and Kano Yasunobu, both of whom were also accomplished painters. Like Tanyu, they became court painters of the Tokugawa clan.
These three brothers served the shogunate as the three Kano schools in Edo at that time. Each of the three schools flourished and all continued to serve the Tokugawa clan.
They were the exclusive court painters of the Tokugawa shogunate until the last years of the Edo period. The lineage of Japanese painting techniques continued from the Kose-ha to the Tosa-ha to the Kano-ha.
Incidentally, the Sumiyoshi and Itaya families of the Tosa School were also employed as court painters by the Tokugawa family.
The Kano school developed while applying the Tosa school, and has transmitted Japanese painting techniques to the present day!
Kano School paintings are national treasures because they have never been stripped and are much more beautiful.
The above is an overview of the most outstanding schools of color painting from ancient times to the modern era.
Kano school, Tosa school (Kasuga school), Kose school: ……
Some of you may be surprised to learn that there were so many different schools.
This book on Japanese painting techniques called “Tansei Shinan” was written by a member of the Kano school, so the history of the Kano school is detailed.
But,No matter how good or bad a person of any school is at painting, the colors are never removed and become dirty.
Even Japanese paints, which tend to peel off easily, have maintained their beauty for a long time without the slightest flaking.
The author of “Tansei Shinan,” who lived in Edo, lamented that this technique was becoming a lost art.
It can be said that it was a truly precious and highly valued technique in modern times.
Today, some of the most magnificent old paintings are designated as national treasures, and other fine works, both old and new, are in the possession of the emperor’s family as treasures.
They are chosen as treasures because they retain their beauty and value even in old age.
(In fact, even if an object is old and valuable, it will not be designated as a National Treasure if it is in a poor state of preservation.)
No matter how good a painting looks, if it deteriorates too quickly, it loses its value!
Let’s learn the art of preserving their beauty!
Japanese painting related articles are here!
Click here for a modern translation of Tansei Shinan, a Japanese painting technique book of the Kano school!