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Japanese art and history: Kano Eitoku and cultural impact of Oda Nobunaga

Japanese art and history: Kano Eitoku and cultural impact of Oda Nobunaga

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In modern Japan the importance of Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) and his legacy remains extremely strong even today. After all, he laid the foundation stone for the future centralized Japan despite certain limitations during the Tokugawa period. However, often the more dynamic side of Oda Nobunaga is neglected and instead the focus is on his military prowess and cruelty. Therefore, the linkage of Kano Eitoku with Nobunaga is most illuminating.

Eitoku was one of the most prominent and highly respected artists of the sixteenth century in Japan. He was born in 1543 and died eight years after Nobunaga in 1590. Yet the linkage between the artistic mastery of Eitoku with Nobunaga provides a different angle and one which may have been hidden for political and religious reasons.

Nobunaga was an innovator but sadly his inquisitiveness and openness to international influence would be crushed by following leaders. In time the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) would condemn all converts to Christianity to death and isolate Japan from the world despite some “windows” staying open. The power of Buddhism would be utilized by the state and Confucian order would lead to greater stratification.

This was a far cry from Nobunaga who lifted major economic restrictions on the peasantry, had favorable relations with Christian preachers, modernized the military, and introduced other favorable reforms in the realm of economics. The political intrigues of Buddhist elites who desired to preserve their power concentration were alarmed by Nobunaga. This notably applies to his favorable policies towards the peasants and Christian missionaries. Indeed, Nobunaga is reported to have had little time for stratification and practices which held back progress. He remained to be an atheist but his brother converted to Christianity. Not surprisingly, this alarmed Buddhist elites which feared that their wealth may be challenged by peasant reforms and a competing religion.

If you click on http://www.buddhanet.net/nippon/nippon_partI.html this website the most notable feature is the anti-Christian and anti-Nobunaga bias. It is stated by Buddhanet and Japan Buddhist Foundation that“When Oda Nobunaga overthrew the military government of Ashikaga in 1573, he actively suppressed Buddhist institutions because he feared the increased power of the leading temples and monasteries which sided with his enemies. He favored the newly introduced foreign cult of Christianity for purely political reasons.”

Note that the usage of “foreign cult” could also be stated about Buddhism because this faith wasn’t born in Japan. Also, for the non-religious then all religions could be deemed to be “cults.” However, the most important point is that for hundreds of years you have had massive negative opinions about Nobunaga in certain quarters. Therefore, much of his openness and innovation was hidden by elites who feared the policies of Nobunaga. After all, his fresh thinking alarmed many traditional elites whose only desire was to maintain their power concentration.

In the field of the arts the role of Nobunaga was very important and it is in this area where the connection with Eitoku materializes. This applies to Eitoku being a patron of Nobunaga and other powerful leaders. Even before Nobunaga amassed power and wealth he was always interested in the arts.

Therefore, during the period of Nobunaga a cultural renaissance was also beginning to take shape. This applies to major gardens of stunning beauty being built along with castles which were blessed with rich architectural designs. Indeed, the Azuchi Castle which is located on the shores of the famous Lake Biwa is deemed to be one of the most beautiful castles ever built. Inside, this castle it was adorned with stunning ceiling paintings by Eitoku and other major areas of art related to high quality statues.

Nobunaga also used his innovation in relationship with the Japanese tea ceremony.  Also, the usage of the Japanese tea ceremony during talks about business, trade, and politics were firmly established under Nobunaga and reached a new dimension within the body politic of Japan. Therefore, Sen no Rikyu who was a famous tea master under his rule had an important cultural part to play in developing greater refinement. At the same time Nobunaga was also intrigued by aspects of European culture therefore he collected Western art and studied other areas.

The first Christian church to be built in Kyoto in 1576 was because of Nobunaga’s patronage. While the first steps of modern kabuki began to materialize under his leadership and during the Tokugawa period this important cultural symbol would flourish. Alongside all these innovations Nobunaga had hoped to install a rational political system which moved away from superstition and stratification. This can be seen by his openness to outside ideas and economic policies which enabled trade to flourish, for peasants to have greater freedom and the same applies to artisans. However, his period in power could not fully implement all the reforms that he had desired. Therefore, in time you had a counter-revolution in the realm of ideas which persecuted Christianity, isolated Japan, infringed on the rights of peasants, and whereby traditional power mechanisms once more stifled many areas of life.

In an earlier article about Eitoku and Nobunaga by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Eitoku was born in Kyoto and clearly he belonged to a prestigious family because he was the grandson of Kano Motonobu (1476-1559). Therefore, with the guidance of his grandfather and with being blessed with such talent, which had been recognized when Eitoku was a very young child, he soon came to prominence and patrons like Nobunaga loved the richness of his style.”

“The influence of Chinese painting styles was clear and this was only natural for the day and clearly Motonobu was very proud of his grandson. Eitoku maintained the pre-eminence of the Kano school which was founded by Kano Masanobu (1434-1530?).

Eitoku is a reminder that despite all the carnage during the period of Nobunaga, the cultural realm remained strong and art was highly valued. Therefore, despite the passages of time Eitoku stills remains potent in modern day Japan because he produced many stunning art pieces.”

Eitoku like Nobunaga left a lasting legacy despite the reasons being very different. However, without the patronage of Nobunaga then the amazing skills of Eitoku would have been hindered on a national scale. The relationship between both individuals highlights the sophistication of Nobunaga and the mastery of Eitoku and his stunning pieces of art.

Nobunaga was much more than just a warlord because he helped many aspects of Japanese society to flourish. In the field of culture and art his legacy is extremely rich. Therefore, the artwork of Eitoku provides a glimpse into the world of Nobunaga and his unbelievable free spirit.

 

http://www.kyohaku.go.jp/eng/tokubetsu/071016/tokubetsu.html  Kyoto National Museum

http://www.all-art.org/asia/japanese_prints/japan_art2.html 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japanese art and Nishikawa Sukenobu: Imperial city of Kyoto, women and politics

Japanese art and Nishikawa Sukenobu: Imperial city of Kyoto, women and politics

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Nishikawa Sukenobu was born in 1671 and until his death in the middle of the eighteenth century, this stunning artist opened up aspects of the role of women in Japanese society. Also, with Sukenobu being based in Kyoto then this provides a rarity within the ukiyo-e art movement. Therefore, with Sukenobu being based in the imperial city of Kyoto this provided him with more freedom and his thinking would be influenced by the environment he resided in.

It is stated about this stunning artist that his images of women were more natural and unassuming and this fact left a lasting legacy. From the political point of view, he appears to have been disenchanted with bakufureforms which were infringing on artists. However, instead of accepting these reforms he appears to have rebuked the bakufu by expressing his thinking through his artwork.

Jenny Preston, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, comments that “Between 1710 and 1722, Sukenobu published some fifty erotic works; following the Kyôhô reforms of 1722 outlawing erotica, he began producing works generally categorized as fûzoku ehon — versions of canonical texts, poems and riddles, all executed in a contemporary idiom. This study contends that these works were an expression of political disaffection; that Sukenobu used first the medium of the erotic, then the image-cum-text format of the children’s book to articulate anti-bakufu and pro-imperialist sentiment.  This radical re-reading of Sukenobu’s work is supported by close reference to the literary output of his numerous collaborators, to contemporary diary and pamphlet literature, and to the corpus of Edo and Kyoto machibure edicts. The study will hopefully shed new light on the role of popular art in the eighteenth century, and its profound political engagement.”

The research by Jenny Preston is very important because it highlights that artists couldn’t be fully constrained by bakufu reforms in their entirety. If, like stated, he had pro-imperial sentiments then this confirms his attachment to Kyoto and the power mechanisms of this city. Also, it shows that the bakufu would tolerate certain dissent in this period but at the same time central institutions were worried about the impact of art when it was deemed unsavory to the sentiments of the bakufu.

The University of Alberta Art Collection website comments that “Nishikawa Sukenobu was a Japanese woodblock print designer, book illustrator and painter. Unlike most of his contemporaries, who worked out of Edo, Sukenobu was based in the imperial capital, Kyoto. He produced book illustrations for the celebrated Kyoto publisher Hachimonjiya Jishō, as well as drawings for several kimono pattern sample books which portray scenes of women choosing kimonos. Sukenobu is best known for his orihon (folded books) and for his unsurpassed skill in presenting graceful and charmingly realized beauties. Sukenobu’s work greatly influenced numerous artists throughout the history of ukiyo-e.”

This bio by the University of Alberta is just highlighting brief facts about Sukenobu but it is clear that this individual artist is viewed with great acclaim when it comes to his depiction of women. Also, the Kyoto angle is highlighted and clearly Sukenobu is opening up a window to the fashion styles of this period in Kyoto. Similarly, he is providing a glimpse into the world of Kyoto with regards to the role of women in society.

Therefore, irrespective if the glimpse is limited or based on a male perception, it is still of cultural importance because his images are very realistic. For this reason, Sukenobu is of great importance because he opens up the keys to imperial Kyoto and the freedoms of women within certain areas of life.

His artwork called Appreciating 100 Women (Hyakunin joro shinasadame) is highly acclaimed because he covers a broad spectrum of different themes. This focus also highlights that his world was very rich and that he could mix easily irrespective of the situation. Therefore, Hyakunin joro shinasadame focuses on issues from the empress to ladies who were employed in the sex trade. Also, irrespective of the subject matter in this series of images, the importance is the style he did this in because the images are very realistic and this reality is what makes his work so powerful.

In another article about Sukenobu which was published by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “…with Sukenobu focusing on women from various different classes then he opens up the reality of old Japan. This in itself is very fascinating because it provides glimpses into the Edo period and this applies to stratification, roles of women, and freedom of women in Japan in this period. Therefore, the Hyakunin joro shinasadame is very important with regards to not only art but because it also relates to social issues and thought patterns of the day.”

“Sukenobu also highlights aspects of fashion with regards to elegant kimono designs. Indeed, many kimono-makers commissioned Sukenobu because of his creativity and the fact that he focused heavily on beautiful women and their lifestyle. Therefore, kimono-makers believed rightly that he could focus on new textile designs and this fact highlights the popularity of his work.”

The political angle to Sukenobu is also extremely fascinating and the same applies to the huge cultural differences within Japan. Imperial Kyoto had many different political intrigues and the world of Sukenobu meant that he was mainly an “outsider” in the world of ukiyo-e.

 

http://www.scholarsresource.com/browse/artist/2142567952 

http://collections.museums.ualberta.ca/uaac/uaac/details.aspx?key=18058&r=1&t=1

http://www.soas.ac.uk/jrc/awards-and-grants/kayoko-tsuda-bursary-recipients.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com 

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japanese art and Kawanabe Kyosai: the power of folklore and culture

Japanese art and Kawanabe Kyosai: the power of folklore and culture

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Kawanabe Kyosai is extremely fascinating because of his individualistic spirit and this is witnessed in his art. Kyosai, just like the mysterious Tengu, belonged to two worlds and this applies to the old Edo period and the modernization of Japan which began in 1868. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 was truly dynamic and revolutionary. Also, the center and periphery relations altered the status quo of the Edo period which relied heavily on stratification.

The Tengu also belongs to two very different traditions and highlights the power of Shintoism and the mysteriousness of this religion. Not only this, the Shinto impact on Buddhist thought patterns and traditions emanating in China were completely turned on its head. Therefore, the Tengu becomes part of the richness of nature within the Shinto faith rather than the dark demons of Buddhism and other faiths which highlight the power of evil. This fact also shows the power of Japanese culture and the indigenous faith of Shinto which could absorb different thinking and traditions.

Kyosai was born in 1831 and died in 1889 and the rapid changes in society clearly impacted on him. He was an individual who was independent in mind and thought and Kyosai expresses this through his art.

Kusumi Kawanabe, Director of the Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum, comments that “This great artist has grown in stature as we have been able the better to get the Meiji period into perspective. He studied at an early age under Kuniyoshi and later under Kano masters, but eventually he went his own independent way. Essentially a nationalistic painter, he was nonetheless fully aware of Western art – indeed, he dealt with it quite broadmindedly in his book “Kyosai Gadan” published in 1887 – but he was robust enough not to succumb, as so many of his contemporaries did, to the blandishments of foreign styles, and was one of the last great painters in the truly Japanese tradition.”

The main focus in this article is to highlight aspects of Kyosai and link this with the Tengu and the underworld of Japan where mysterious creatures, spirits, and ghosts played a powerful role within the culture of this fascinating country. Also, it is clear that the outside influence of China and Korea impacted greatly on Japan. However, despite this the indigenous faith of Shintoism and other powerful aspects of culture would transform many of these new thought patterns and create a truly Japanese identity.

The yokai represent aspects of the mystery of folklore in Japan and the transformation of Tengu is also fascinating within the changing thought patterns of Japan. The yokai are creatures with supernatural powers and the Tengu are one of the most widely known monster-spirits in the land of the rising sun.

The Tengu have constantly gone through transformations in Japanese folklore and while early artists depicted the Tengu with beaks this changed in time and now the most distinctive feature is their long nose.

Within Buddhist thought patterns the Tengu were demons and it was believed that they were harbingers of bad times and this applies to war and other calamities.  However, within Shintoism the Tengu were sometimes worshipped as revered spirits (Shinto kami) which had magical powers.  Therefore, the Tengu also witnessed the fusion of aspects of Buddhism and Shintoism because in time their image changed into a more protective force.

However, despite this transformation the Tengu still had dark and dangerous powers and people in the mountains and forests had to tread carefully because of the several natures of the Tengu. This meant that local people couldn’t take the Tengu for granted and great respect was needed during visits to special shrines which highlight this mysterious folklore creature.

Kyosai certainly depicts the power of the Tengu and the mysterious features and nature of various types ofyokai.  Therefore, Kyosai is showing images of the old world despite the new reality of the Meiji period.

In Japanese history the Tengu went from demonic creatures into positive aspects providing care was taken and nature was at peace with the underworld.  For example if we apply this to children then in early Japanese history the Tengu were believed to abduct children. However, in later history this all changed because the Tengu became enlisted in searching for children who were scared and needed help quickly.

Another positive side of the Tengu is that their shape-shifting power applies to animal and human form and this meant that their attributes were powerful. Therefore, the Tengu used this in order to play tricks on arrogant Buddhist priests or people who abused their power.

In this sense, while the Tengu belong to Japanese folklore it could be said that Kyosai shared some characteristics and this applies to attacking political elites.  After all, Kyosai was known for being a political caricaturist and he often got in trouble with the law and the dominant political power of his day.

Kyosai was a free thinker who highlighted the richness of the spirit world in his art and Japanese folklore.

http://kyosai-museum.jp/ENG/about.htm

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/tengu.shtml

http://www.obakemono.com/obake/tengu/

http://www.robynbuntin.com/MoreByArtist.asp?ArtistID=388

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japanese Buddhist Art at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul (Now until Feb 19, 2012)

Japanese Buddhist Art at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul (Now until Feb 19, 2012)

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker  

Modern Tokyo Times

The(http://www.museum.go.kr/main/index/index002.jsp)National Museum of Korea (NMK) is currently holding a stunning exhibition of Japanese Buddhist art and the exhibition runs until February 19, 2012. According to information on the NMK website this museum was the ninth most visited museum in the world in 2010 and with stylish exhibitions like Japanese Buddhist art it is clear why. Therefore, Koreans, other nationalities in South Korea and tourists to this beautiful country have a great opportunity to view this exhibition and other exhibitions which highlight the richness of Korean culture.

Japanese Buddhist art and wisdom is famous in places like Kamakura, Kyoto, Nara, Koyasan, and throughout Japan and clearly Korea and China enabled Buddhism to reach the land of the rising sun. The exhibition held at the NMK focuses on art from the Lake Biwa area and the spiritual connection between Korea and Japan is also highlighted.

Ryu Seung-jin who is the curator of Asian Art at the NMK comments that“Many Koreans may not be so familiar with the Lake Biwa district….But the region carries a lot of significance in Korea-Japan history, as it was the area where Buddhism was introduced by Baekje migrants, and where the official travelling routes for goodwill missions from Joseon (1392-1910), whenever they made diplomatic visits to Japan, took place.”

Therefore, the exhibition isn’t just highlighting the natural beauty of Japanese Buddhist art and the richness of culture in the Lake Biwa area of Japan. More important, the exhibition is highlighting a common thread which runs throughout northeast Asia and this applies to Buddhism and past interaction between different ethnic groups.

In this period of history some of the finest scholars and religious teachers of the entire region would travel or interact through Buddhist thought patterns and cultural exchanges were normal. Therefore, when we look at petty issues re-surfacing time after time in modern northeast Asia it makes you wonder what happened to “modernity” and “progress.” Given this, the Japanese art exhibition in Seoul at the NMK is a welcome reminder about the shared humanity of history, ideas, culture, and so forth, of the entire region.

Of course, unique internal traits in each respective nation alongside strong regional traits which are not nation based remain strong. However, the role of Buddhism was meant to highlight the common humanity of all just like Christianity and other world faiths. Therefore, by viewing the exhibition it becomes apparent that Buddhism and Confucianism impacted deeply on the entire region and this also applies to architectural design in Japan in this period.

The exhibition is extremely rich in culture and this applies to showing 4 National Treasure items from Japan and highlighting a further 31 items of Important Cultural Property according to Japan which designated these titles. Also, other amazing art items belong to this stunning exhibition and clearly this will appeal to all individuals who love art, culture, history, and religion.

If you view the website of the NMK it states the following about the Lake Biwa region because it is stated that“Buddhism was brought from Baekje to this area earlier than elsewhere in Japan and flourished there. The temple where Tiantai Buddhism was founded and famous Buddhist retreats nestle in mountains and hills surrounding Lake Biwako, and these places abound in Buddhist sculptures and paintings.”

“This exhibition showcases Buddhist art items in the collection, or in the custody, of the Shiga Prefectural Lake Biwako Museum in Otsu, along with items in the collections of the Nara and Kyoto National Museums and those housed in temples in Shiga Prefecture.” 

If(http://www.museum.go.kr/main/index/index002.jsp)you visit this link then more in depth information will be supplied about this stunning art exhibition at the NMK which is located in Seoul. Therefore, please check this link and note other exhibitions and other details about this exquisite museum.

http://www.museum.go.kr/main/index/index002.jsp

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

The image was taken from the National Museum of Korea website which highlights this stunning exhibition. 

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in ASIA, Japan

 

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Japanese art and Ogata Korin (1658-1716)

Japanese art and Ogata Korin (1658-1716)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The art of Ogata Korin remains potent because of clarity and his own unique ways. However, at one point it appeared that the winds of time would threaten his legacy and if this had happened, then Japanese art would have been the loser. Thankfully, Sakai Hoitsu would change this because this individual understood the powerful art of Korin and he restored his reputation and opened up his art to new artists.

Korin had been born into a wealthy household because his father was a thriving merchant. More important, his father had a keen eye for art therefore he nurtured his son and gave him a firm foundation. This proved to be a rich blessing because Korin was blessed with amazing skills and he also had something new to offer the art world.

It is certainly true that Korin admired Hon’ami Koetsu and Tawaraya Sotatsu because both individuals influenced him. Therefore, aspects of this influence can be felt within the “heart” of Korin but this gifted artist also had his own distinctive style.

For example Korin focused on bold designs and he utilized contrasting colors and the power of this can be felt deeply within his artwork. Also, Korin would manipulate space and sometimes he would disregard the conventions of his day. This applies to rejecting pure realism within his art and manipulating nature in order to expose the beauty he saw within his world. Therefore, while Korin respected Koetsu and Sotatsu to the full, he also had his own unique style and clearly this attracted Hoitsu.

In a past article I commented that “in the history of art the “shadow of time” nearly bypassed him after his death because Korin was becoming a forgotten artist or at least on the periphery. Sakai Hoitsu would change this because he brought Korin back “from the cold” and “into the light” once more.”

“Therefore, with Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828) reviving the interest of Korin he once more became remembered and interest grew because of this factor.  Hoitsu also reproduced some of the best work of Korin and this was a timely reminder to all lovers of art in Japan that Korin played his role when it came to creativity and expressing serenity.”

If you look at the White and Red Plum Blossoms by Korin it is clear that the angle of the viewer and that of the artist is fascinating. At first, it isn’t noticeable to lay people because everything appears normal but the more you look then clearly the angle is intriguing from a Western art point of view.

On the following website (http://www.all-art.org) it is commentated that “Ogata Korin used none of these Western perspective conventions. He showed the two plum trees as seen from a position on the ground, while viewers look down on the stream between them from above. Less concerned with locating the trees and stream in space than with composing shapes on a surface, the painter played the water’s gently swelling curves against the jagged contours of the branches and trunks. Neither the French nor the Japanese painting can be said to project “correctly” what viewers “in fact” see. One painting is not a “better” picture of the world than the other. The European and Asian artists simply approached the problem of picture-making differently.”

It is factual that Korin is not internationally famous unlike a few Japanese artists who are widely known. However, fame and stunning art doesn’t always go hand in hand and of course the art world is extremely broad and some styles have hit the imagination more and received greater international attention.

Despite this, the legacy of Korin is powerful in modern Japan and he is rightly known for being distinctive and enhancing the richness of Japanese art. Also, the more you focus on his art then the more clear it becomes that his unique style appeals today just like it appealed greatly to Hoitsu. Therefore, Korin left a lasting legacy and when you view the more refined artwork of Korin you can visualize high society in the golden periods of Kyoto and Nara.

http://www.japanese-arts.net/painting/schools_rinpa_ogatakorin.htm

http://www.asianartnewspaper.com/article/rinpa%3A-the-art-of-japan%E2%80%99s-renaissance

http://moderntokyotimes.com

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

 
  
 
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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Japan

 

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Japanese art and ukiyo-e: Nishikawa Sukenobu and women

Japanese art and ukiyo-e: Nishikawa Sukenobu and women

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The printmaker Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1750) was unusual by ukiyo-e standards because he was based in the imperial city of Kyoto and therefore he was an “outsider” in some ways. However, this fact also gave him more freedom to focus on his own style and many of his images of Japanese women appear to be more natural and unassuming.  Therefore, Sukenobu is an extremely interesting character.

Sukenobu gained much acclaim from his Appreciating 100 Women (Hyakunin joro shinasadame) because he focused on the entire spectrum. This applies to focusing on imperial aspects, like the empress, to females involved in the sex trade and the images he produced have a very realistic feel about them.

Also, with Sukenobu focusing on women from various different classes then he opens up the reality of old Japan. This in itself is very fascinating because it provides glimpses into the Edo period and this applies to stratification, roles of women, and freedom of women in Japan in this period. Therefore, the Hyakunin joro shinasadame is very important with regards to not only art but because it also relates to social issues and thought patterns of the day.

During the early life of Sukenobu he was trained in the styles of Kano and Tosa and these schools obviously impacted on him. The Kyoto angle is also fascinating because you didn’t have many ukiyo-e artists from this very rich cultural city and clearly he led a life which was extremely rewarding.

Sukenobu also highlights aspects of fashion with regards to elegant kimono designs. Indeed, many kimono-makers commissioned Sukenobu because of his creativity and the fact that he focused heavily on beautiful women and their lifestyle. Therefore, kimono-makers believed rightly that he could focus on new textile designs and this fact highlights the popularity of his work.

He also concentrated on the desires and pleasures of women in Kyoto and this aspect shows that women had more sexual freedom in the Edo period, than in the “Christian world” and “Islamic world” in the same period of history. This meant that his romantic fictions could delve more deeply because of more openness in Japan when it came to sexual expressions and norms.

Therefore, despite the perils of stratification in the Edo period, and the same applies to the vast majority of nations in the same period of history, it does appear that other areas were more liberal. This fact enabled Sukenobu to focus on areas of interest and to highlight aspects of Kyoto and Japan during his lifetime. Also, the focus on romantic themes, kimono fashion, ladies of various different social backgrounds, and other areas, does provide valuable information and all within the stunning art of Sukenobu.

Censorship was a problem throughout the Edo period and many artists got into trouble because of aspects of their art. However, on a personal level “the gate was open” in special quarters and to people who had access to indulge in highlighting elements within Japanese culture.

Richard Lane commented that “Sukenobu’s style was profoundly influential, and characterized by a “subdued conception of lovely, unobtrusive grace (perhaps closer to actual Japanese womanhood than that of any other artist”.

This comment by Richard Lane is a powerful compliment and testimony to the integrity of Sukenobu. Of course, Sukenobu focused on other themes but his images of women in this period was enlightening. Therefore, today lovers of Japanese art can enter “a window” of old Japan which is realistic and done in style.

http://www.scholarsresource.com/browse/artist/2142567952 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Japan

 

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Japanese art: Images of tranquility and landscapes

Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Japanese art: Images of tranquility and landscapes

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Utagawa Kuniyoshi depicted many images and covered various different subject matters. Therefore, the art of this stylish ukiyo-e artist in this article provides only a glimpse into the real Kuniyoshi.

Kuniyoshi was born in 1797 and died in 1861 and throughout this period many developments erupted in Japan. This applies to traditional rule in the earlier part of his life to rapid changes from the middle of the 1850s and onwards until the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

Ando Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai are the most famous ukiyo-e artists internationally but Kuniyoshi was also a crème de la crème artist along with many others. Also, the broad spectrum of many ukiyo-e artists is truly amazing and this also applies to the art of Kuniyoshi. Therefore, the art work of this wonderful artist is complex and depends on various different circumstances.

This article focuses only on the tranquil nature of his art and elegant landscapes which appealed to many Japanese people. However, it would be wrong to believe that these lovely landscapes and scenes of serenity provide the real Kuniyoshi because this would be false.

Despite this, for people who know the art work of Kuniyoshi the opposite could be said because all too often this angle of his artwork is neglected. Yet clearly Kuniyoshi’s landscape images match that of any ukiyo-e artist irrespective of people’s own preferred artist.

The Edo Period was succumbing to outside forces during the lifetime of Kuniyoshi and this must have infringed heavily on this stylish artist. However, when one door closes another opens up and this certainly applied to the later stages of his life. Therefore, new techniques, different thinking, growing outside influences, evolution within the Japanese art world, and others factors, impacted greatly on Kuniyoshi.

Images in this article by Kuniyoshi are a reminder of a world which was mainly un-spoilt before the economic, social, and political revolution which took hold in Japan and culminated with the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

In an earlier article I commented that “Kuniyoshi and other famous ukiyo-e artists also take you back to a different Japan in all its confusion.  Therefore, Kuniyoshi designed prints which covered a vast spectrum and this applies to landscapes, women, kabuki, humor, nature, satire, shunga, cats, surimono and other areas.”  

“It is apparent that Hokusai (1760-1849) had much more political and sexual freedom and this notably applies to Hokusai’s shunga which is very powerful and erotic.  However, the Tenpo reforms of the early 1840s introduced measures which banned prints of erotic women and actors who belonged to the kabuki scene.  This meant that Kuniyoshi had to focus more on warriors and legends but his historical depictions were under close scrutiny. Therefore the popular satire of shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi and other prints led to an official reprimand and many prints were confiscated and destroyed.”

Kuniyoshi also opened up the past and this applies to the depiction of historical figures in Japanese history, brave samurai warriors, events in Japanese history, famous legends and other related areas which nurtured each new generation.  

Famous art pieces produced by Kuniyoshi include The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden All Told, At The Shore of the Sumida River, Mt. Fuji from Sumida and Pilgrims in the Waterfall. Of course you have many other famous collections and art pieces by Kuniyoshi and preferences will vary with each individual.

Pilgrims in the Waterfall is extremely beautiful because it shows and highlights important aspects of Japanese culture when it applies to religion and nature coming together.  This notably applies to Shintoism which is “the real heart of Japan” despite the influence of Buddhism within the Japanese psyche. Also, in this stunning art piece it is abundantly clear that space is very important and this applies to religion, Japanese gardens, meditation and other aspects of Japanese culture.

The serenity which can be felt by the Pilgrims in the Waterfall connects humanity, nature and religion together.  Therefore, Kuniyoshi is highlighting a powerful reality which belonged to his world.  

Kuniyoshi’s ukiyo-e is very varied and images in this article are limited to landscapes and internal tranquility in Japan.

http://www.kuniyoshiproject.com/  – Fantastic website and just click onto the section you are interested in.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Japan

 

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Japanese art and Kano Eitoku: Oda Nobunaga, political power and art

Japanese art and Kano Eitoku: Oda Nobunaga, political power and art

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kano Eitoku was born in 1543 and died in 1590 but in his short life he left a rich legacy because he was one of the most prominent artists of the sixteenth century. Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) who laid the foundation stone for the centralization of Japan admired Eitoku deeply. Therefore, during his lifetime Eitoku reached the upper echelons of the political dynamics of Japan because his patrons included Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who followed the leadership of Nobunaga after his death.

Therefore, the art of Eitoku also provides a glimpse into the political dynamics of Japan during his day. More importantly, it also shows Nobunaga, a famous warlord, in a good light because this individual was truly individualistic and cared little about unwanted traditions.

Nobunaga was favorable to the Christian faith which sadly would face a Buddhist inquisition during the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) and in time all followers would be killed, forced to recant or become crypto-Christians by outwardly pretending to be Buddhists. Nobunaga also opened up trade for peasants, used modern warfare and a host of other initiatives.

However, Nobunaga would not tolerate competing power processes and this led to many military clashes and a deep seated hatred towards the Tendai Buddhist warrior monks whom he would crush. Yet, the other side of Nobunaga was “openness” and in the field of art he admired the richness of Eitoku.

The period of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi was revolutionary because momentous changes were happening in Japan but sadly the end result of the Tokugawa period was not the dream envisaged by Nobunaga. Eitoku, therefore, was faced with the cold reality of the day because many of his patrons were people of power and influence.

Eitoku was born in Kyoto and clearly he belonged to a prestigious family because he was the grandson of Kano Motonobu (1476-1559). Therefore, with the guidance of his grandfather and with being blessed with such talent, which had been recognized when Eitoku was a very young child, he soon came to prominence and patrons like Nobunaga loved the richness of his style.

The influence of Chinese painting styles was clear and this was only natural for the day and clearly Motonobu was very proud of his grandson. Eitoku maintained the pre-eminence of the Kano school which was founded by Kano Masanobu (1434-1530?).

Eitoku is a reminder that despite all the carnage during the period of Nobunaga, the cultural realm remained strong and art was highly valued. Therefore, despite the passages of time Eitoku stills remains potent in modern day Japan because he produced many stunning art pieces.

The period of history which witnessed Nobunaga and Eitoku is extremely fascinating and if individuals are interested in history and art, then the sixteenth century is very rich in Japan. Nobunaga left a lasting legacy in the realm of politics and the unification of Japan even if the direction was very different during the Tokugawa period.

Eitoku also left a lasting legacy in the field of Japanese art. Therefore, despite the different thinking of Nobunaga and Eitoku, and their completely different lifestyle, both individuals show that this period was one of innovation and changing ways.

Eitoku is rightly remembered in modern day Japan because of the stunning art pieces he produced.

http://www.kyohaku.go.jp/eng/tokubetsu/071016/tokubetsu.html Kyoto National Museum

Image of Oda Nobunaga not by Kano Eitoku

http://www.all-art.org/asia/japanese_prints/japan_art2.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com


 
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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Japan

 

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Japanese art and Ogata Korin: tranquility and the Gods of Thunder and Wind

Japanese art and Ogata Korin: tranquility and the Gods of Thunder and Wind

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ogata Korin was a painter of art and he was born in 1658 and died in 1716. Korin had a lucky upbringing because his father was a successful merchant and wealthy.  Also, his father had a strong soft spot for the arts and he nurtured Korin and gave him basic training.

Korin was greatly influenced by Hon’ami Koetsu and Tawaraya Sotatsu but despite this he developed his own distinctive style. This applies to bold designs, utilizing contrasting colors, usage of space and at times he disregarded realism and the conventions of the day. Therefore, despite the nurturing and the powerful influence on his art, he still managed to overcome this because Korin created a new spark.

However, in the history of art the “shadow of time” nearly bypassed him after his death because Korin was becoming a forgotten artist or at least on the periphery. Sakai Hoitsu would change this because he brought Korin back “from the cold” and “into the light” once more.

Therefore, with Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828) reviving the interest of Korin he once more became remembered and interest grew because of this factor.  Hoitsu also reproduced some of the best work of Korin and this was a timely reminder to all lovers of art in Japan that Korin played his role when it came to creativity and expressing serenity.

The White and Red Plum Blossoms painting by Korin is very fascinating from a neutral point of view. This applies to the two folding screens of this piece of art because unlike conventional thinking in Western art in this period you have a different thought pattern.

Korin visualizes this image from a different vantage point because he shows the two plum trees from a different angle. This applies to a position on the ground when viewing the two plum trees and this style is appealing in its own right.

The website http://www.all-art.org/ comments that Ogata Korin used none of these Western perspective conventions. He showed the two plum trees as seen from a position on the ground, while viewers look down on the stream between them from above. Less concerned with locating the trees and stream in space than with composing shapes on a surface, the painter played the water’s gently swelling curves against the jagged contours of the branches and trunks. Neither the French nor the Japanese painting can be said to project “correctly” what viewers “in fact” see. One painting is not a “better” picture of the world than the other. The European and Asian artists simply approached the problem of picture-making differently.”

Korin may not be the most famous Japanese artist but he left his mark and thanks to Hoitsu many people came to view his artwork and appreciate this talented individual. Also, Watanabe Shiko (1683-1755) deeply admired Korin and you can see the linkage of compositions in the earlier period of Korin.

Shiko, just like Korin before him, may have admired individuals but he also was individualistic. Shiko was also an important bridge because Hoitsu benefitted from this continuity.

Overall, Korin is a very interesting artist and he leaves a rich legacy and today he is rightly remembered in Japan for innovation and creating a new dimension.  Korin’s art can’t be overlooked because he was unique and his art enhances the richness of Japanese art.

http://www.japanese-arts.net/painting/schools_rinpa_ogatakorin.htm

http://www.asianartnewspaper.com/article/rinpa%3A-the-art-of-japan%E2%80%99s-renaissance

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Posted by on October 14, 2011 in Japan

 

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Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto: richness of art and culture

Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto: richness of art and culture

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Hokusai

Ukiyo-e expresses the richness of Japanese culture, nature, history, mythology, theatre, stunning landscapes, and highlights the importance of entertainment and other areas. Also, ukiyo-e shows vivid images of sexuality and some shunga is extremely explicit even by the standards of today in liberal nations.  This reality is what makes ukiyo-e so powerful because it relates to both reality and a world of mythology and ghosts.

Hiroshige

Ukiyo-e therefore covers a very broad spectrum and many famous international artists like Vincent van Gogh, Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Renoir, Paul Gaugin, Monet, Félix Bracquemond, Mary Cassatt, and others, were admirers of ukiyo-e.  

Chikanobu

 The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum website comments that “The average citizen’s mood of Edo period (1603-1867) was an extremely buoyant and joyful one –not the transitory, heavy atmosphere characteristic of the troubled middle age. The word “ukiyo-e” means “the picture of buoyant world” and incorporates in its meaning the common man’s daily pleasures, such as Kabuki plays, Geisha houses, and so on. The forerunner of Edo period prints was simple drawings that gradually developed into a wood-block, thus satisfying the growth of the demand.”

Kunichika

Obviously the Edo period had darkness within the myths and this applies to the killing of all Christians and brutal methods were used against criminals.  Also, stratification and other factors meant that the Edo period also had major negatives and art can often be used to over-simplify reality. This applies to art all over the world which may neglect serious issues and the marginalized or which may be constrained by cultural and political factors of the day.

Ogata Gekko

However, ukiyo-e does provide major glimpses into the Edo period and the changing Japan which began after the Meiji Restoration of 1868.  More important, ukiyo-e connected with people from all social backgrounds and elitist aspects of Western art appears to be unimportant.

Yoshitoshi

The Japanese Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, is located in a stunning part of Japan and the mountain scenery of Nagano Prefecture is a wonder to behold. Therefore, if you love art and Japanese culture this museum is a must place to visit because the ukiyo-e collection is enormous and you will be spoilt for choice. 

Hiroshige

Irrespective if you are a citizen who resides in Japan or an international tourist who is visiting Japan; the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum is a genuine treasure. Matsumoto itself is a very nice city and Matsumoto Castle is very beautiful. The surrounding area is also blessed with amazing nature and beautiful mountain ranges and this will further add to your visit to the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto.  

http://www.ukiyo-e.co.jp/jum-e/index.html

The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum: 2206-1, Shimadachi, Matsumoto, 390-0852, JAPAN.

Open: 10:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m.
Closed on Monday

http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/contents03+index.id+7.htm

http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/

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Posted by on August 14, 2011 in Japan

 

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