Japan Art History: Kamakura Period
The Kamakura period (1185-1333) was the time when feudalism was established in Japan. Also, it was age of the increasing popularity of Buddhism. Because of the military governance in the country the realism, boldness and action were in value, even in the art. For describing the main features of the art development during this period the next works will be reviewed: “Gate Guardians” by Unkei and Kaikei, “Monk Kuya” by Kosho and “Scrolls of the itinerant monk Ippen” by Shokai.
Due to the Buddhism popularization the rebuilding of the temples started. The two sculptors Unkei and Kaikei that worked in reconstruction of Todaiji made the wooden sculptures called “Gate Guardians.” The style of this work was realism, and despite the incorrect musculature of the Guardians, a great attention to details was paid. The two statues were standing opposite to each other and it seemed that they were in a movement. The second work “Monk Kuya” by Unkei’s son Kosho was also wooden. It was multicolored statue with the inlaid crystal eyes. The work consisted of the several wooden blocks also was made in realistic style. The details were so highly described that even veins could be seen. The third work of the Kamakura period was “Scrolls of the itinerant monk Ippen” by Shokai. It included 12 silk scrolls. This work was a piece of landscape painting art. This scrolls showed the travel of the monk Ippen around Japan. Among the themes that were described in this work there were the following: bibliography, conversion, poems and miracles. The main idea of these narrative scrolls was that the traveling was the spiritual path search.
As it can be seen the main direction of the art in the Kamakura period was realism. All of the sculptors that worked during that time were realists. Because of the popularization of Buddhism the art was connected to the religion and a big amount of works were dedicated to it.
The Muromachi period (1336-1573) was the time of Ashikaga shogunate governance. This period was known for the beginning of the active trade with China, the great interest in Chinese culture and foundation of the merchant class in Japan. As for the art, it was also connected to religion, but to the new one, Zen Buddhism that appeared in the Muromachi period. Moreover, the new style of painting was found in Japan. It was Zen painting. The main artists were the monk-painters who showed through their works the way to enlightenment, using monochrome painting technique. The popular themes were: Buddhist deities, portraits of a master, poetry and landscape. Among the art-works that will be observed there will be the following: “Kanzan” by Kao, “Four Sleepers” by Mokuan and “Portrait of Master Enni” by Mincho.
The work “Kanzan” by Kao was a hanging scroll painted using ink and paper. Hanging scrolls gained popularity during the Muromachi period. On this painting was described a poet Kanzan who lived in the mountains in China. It was the monochrome painting that was usual during the Muromachi period. “Four Sleepers” by Mokuan also was the hanging scroll. But unlike the work of Kao, this one combined painting and poetry, the new one art direction appeared. There were drawn poets, monk Bukan and a tiger and was written a poem. “Portrait of Master Enni” by Mincho was the painting that represented one of the popular themes in art for Zen Buddhists. It was the portrait of a master.
As it can be seen, the Zen painting was the main direction of the art during the Muromachi period. The works of the Muromachi period were dedicated to the religion, Zen Buddhizm. And the artists of that time were Zen Buddhist monks. They used monochrome painting and sometimes combined painting and poems in their works.
The Momoyama period (1573-1615) was the period when the three military leaders existed at the same time. That was the time of the attempts to unification and armed conflicts. As for the Japanese art, that period was noble for its castle architecture, tea ceremony, as the part of the military culture and decorative painting. Among the works that will be observed there will be the following: “Birds and Flowers of 4 Seasons (1566)” by Kano Eitoku, “Maple Tree” by Hasegawa Tohaku and Oribe ware ceramic.
The Kano Eitoku work “Birds and Flowers of 4 Seasons” was a representative of the trends of the Momoyama period. This piece of art was a decorative painting that was widely used in the castles’ and the temples’ decoration. It was drawn for the Daitokuji temple complex. The second work, “Maple Tree” by Hasegawa Tohaku, was made for the mortuary temple of the Hideyoshi’s son. It was also a decorative painting, like mostly all works of that period. Talking about the tea ceremony, the objects for it were chosen very carefully. And because of it appeared different types of ceramics for such ceremonies. One of those was Oribe ware that was produced in Mino. It could be identified due to use of the green glaze and specific painting design.
As it can be seen the Momoyama period may be characterized be close connection of the art to military culture. Decorative painting for decorating the castles and mortuary temples, tea ceremonies with using the different types of ceramics, all of these appeared due to the military tendency of that time.
The Edo period (1603-1868) was the period of the Tokugawa shogunate rule. It was the time of the economic growth and social order. Also, it was the period of the arts and culture popularity. The Edo period characterized by the new trends in visual arts and sharing the Western and Chinese experience. During this period appeared the Western style of the painting and also was popular the Chinese naturalistic style. Among the works that will be discussed there will be the following: “Pine, Plum and Cranes (1731-1733) by Shen Quan (1682-1765), “Hollander on a Pier (1780’s)” by Shiba Kokan (1747-1818) and “Dragons and Clouds (1773)” by Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795).
Shen Quan, who was living in Nagasaki, had a direct access to Western sources and Chinese trends. As it can be seen, his work “Pine, Plum and Cranes” was drawn under the influence of the Chinese teaching. It was made in Chinese naturalistic painting style. The work by Shiba Kokan, “Hollander on a Pier” represented the painter’s style and interests. As a representative of the Western-style Painting, Shiba Kokan was charmed by European perspective and realism. Interests of the artist found their place in his paintings. “Hollander on a Pier” that was drawn by ink on silk, showed the influence of the western trends on painter. Shiba Kokan, first of all, tried to represent reality truthfully. But at the same time, through his painting he wanted to evoke spirit and essence and did not pay a lot of attention to the form. As for Maruyama Okyo, he also had an interest in Chinese style of the painting, but he developed his personal style. Painter combined brushstroke, color and sketching and succeeded in representing a space and a volume. All of it could be seen in his work “Dragons and Clouds”. The Maruyama Okyo’s works had subjects that were easy to understand and beautiful at the same time.
The Edo period in Japan may be characterized by the significant influence of the trends and teachings from the western countries on Japanese art. Due to it appeared two different styles: Western-style painting and Chinese naturalistic painting. All the works that was made during the Edo period could be recognized as the representations of one of these styles.