The History of Japanese Art – Part 2

Japanese art has a rich history, over the centuries the Japanese way of painting used many techniques and styles that represented their culture and made Japan one of the most influential art producers of the world.

Such a technique is sumi, which means ink picture. It is a combination of calligraphy together with painting which produces very fine and beautiful art. It can look very ancient but can be very modern, it is simple but produces very complex results, often reflecting the spiritual significance of Zen Buddhism. It was the Buddhist monks that brought the bamboo-handled brush to Japan from China, and fourteen centuries later Japan has proved a rich heritage of ink painting.

Hokusai – The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

One of the most famous Japanese paintings of all time is the Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, painted in 1814 by Hokusai. The work is actually strictly not a painting as it is a woodcut, from the style of Ukiyo-e. The work is of a young diver who happens to be entwined sexually with two octopuses. The painting was said to have influenced many western artists that followed, including Fernand Khnopff, Auguste Rodin and Pablo Picasso.

Hokusai – The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

Takeji – Sunrise over the Eastern Sea

Takeji was a master of the Japanese Yoga style, which basically meant Western-style. He developed Impressionist art together with Romanticism to found a new method of late-19th Century and early-20th Century of Japanese art. On his visit to France in 1905 he was greatly influenced by the French art scene and their techniques; it was Impressionism that really took his attention, and those influences are strong in Sunrise over the Eastern Sea.

Kyosai – Tiger

During the Edo period, Kawanabe Kyosai was one of the leading Japanese artists. He relied heavily on the influences that the artist Tohaku practiced in his art. Tohaku was the only artist of his time that painted screens covered in powdered gold with ink. Many of Kyosai’s subject matters were portraits or caricatures, but he also created some of the most important Japanese art of the 19th Century. Tiger was painted using a technique of ink mixed together with watercolor.

Yoshida – Fuji from Kawaguchi Lake

The shin-hanga style was developed in the early part of the 20th Century, between the periods of Taisho and Showa. Yoshida is one of the most important figures of the shin-hanga style that was all about revitalizing traditional Ukiyo-e art. Yoshida was trained in the European style of oil painting and brought many of these influences to his work.

Murakami – 727

Finally, we look at one of the most famous Japanese artists that is currently producing work. Takashi Murakami is immensely popular and his works command astronomical prices. His inspiration for the younger generation of Japanese artists has been striking, he is seen as almost a father figure. His work uses a wide range of styles and techniques and has been described as super flat. His works include a generous amount of color and the use of motifs from popular Japanese modern culture. These artists exemplify what Japanese art is all about, steeped in tradition but not afraid to move with the times.