The Categories of Japanese Painting

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The Categories of Japanese Painting


Japanese painting has an ancient history that is related to the cultural motifs of both Asian and European countries. The scientists refer the Japanese Art history from the Asuka Period to the early 20th century, the peak of growth and development of Japanese painting. Consequently, to understand the meaning and depth of Japanese painting, one should analyze it in the contexts of the European and Asian cultures. Japanese painting has an ancient, long history and original, unique features. The distinguishing feature of Japanese art is that it is based on the traditional philosophy, and that is why Japanese artists depicted the nature and its landscapes as a personality that has feelings and emotions. This essay intends to explain two categories of Japanese paintings: the painting getting influences from Asia and the painting getting influences from Europe.

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Comparison of Japanese Art under the Influence of the European and Asian Cultures

Speaking about the Japanese Art history from Asuka period to the early 20th century, one should say that it was characterized by the extreme growth. That cultural period was called in such a way because the Japanese government was located in Asuka. Moreover, Asuka period was the time of the establishing of the cultural relations between Japan, Korea, and China. Japan had incorporated the aspects of Chinese art through historiography, writing, and Buddhism. Nara had become the Japanese cultural capital giving the growth to sculpture and architectural development (Weston 490).

Analyzing the influence of European and Asian cultures on Japanese painting, one should say that the Asian one had a greater impact. However, European culture did not lag behind. First of all, it was the French Impressionism that was reflected in the exhibition of about 75 oil paintings in the early 20th century. Secondly, Japanese artists were interested in studying French art and took the lessons from European artists in Tokyo. Thirdly, references of Japanese artists to Van Gogh and Matisse were seen in the post-impressionist works. Moreover, the European influence was evident in the desire of studying Western art, its themes and techniques. One should say that European influence was like a driving force for the Japanese painting after the years of self-imposed isolation (Takashina 350).

Europe and European art works, religion, social movements, and culture had influenced Japanese painting style. However, one should say that Japanese artists oriented more on the art style rather than European social movements and culture. The Japanese painters borrowed the technique of depicting nature and its landscapes. For example, Shiba Kokan was astonished by Western techniques. Not without a reason, he wrote: “Western painting captures the very soul of creation. Japanese and Chinese paintings are like toys and are not of much practical good. Western painters use light and shade to express contrasting effects – smoothness and roughness, distance and proximity, depth and shallowness.” Shiba Kokan depicted the difference between the Chinese, Japanese, and Western paintings (Weston 490).

As for the Asian influence on the Japanese painting, China had a leading position as compared to other countries. It was the Chinese painting that had created Japanese style painting. Moreover, schools of painting in China were the sources of inspiration for the Japanese artists. The mesmerizing Asian charm had added purely decorative view to the Japanese painting. One should say that the emergence of new Japanese styles had become the driving force for the opening and developing of painting schools. Such Japanese style as yamato-e emerged under the influence of the Chinese culture (Takashina 351).

Japanese painting and painting style has been formed in the context of Chinese art works, culture and religion. One should say that Japanese painting was firmly established at the time of the introduction of Buddhism. It means that religion was an influential aspect. Buddhist monasteries and Korean artisans and monks created Japanese pictures and sculptures representing legendary figures, saints, and divinities. These art objects prove the close relationship between the Asian and Japanese cultures, especially in Nara. Japanese painting borrowed Chinese forms and techniques. For example, wall paintings at Horyu-ji were based on the Korean models, Chinese Horyoji, and the Tang style of painting (Bowie 10).

Japanese paintings were influenced by the European culture in Tokyo when European artists gave the lessons of painting and inspired others to create. The reason of that influence was related to the desire of Japanese art to get off self-imposed isolation. It means that European culture had become a driving force for the Japanese painting. Japanese painting had absorbed the Asian art through the international relations such as trade. It had happened in Asuka where Asian art schools were extremely popular. Moreover, Japanese artists are the lovers of nature and landscapes; therefore, they had a lot in common with the Chinese ones.

Without a doubt, Asian art style differs from the European one. The Asian art has its own content and image compared with the Western paintings. The Asian artists use ink stone, paper, ink, and brush as the most essential elements for art creation. The difference between the Asian and European art is in the themes. European painters tend to depict human body. As for Asians, they pay attention to the nature and its beautiful landscapes. Asian painting was more limited to the scrolls. As a result, Japanese painting is closer to the Asian one. One can see the consistency of light and color in the European art, whereas Chinese artists tried to show the effect of light. However, European painters pay more attention to the composition, light, shadow, and the effects of color. Asian painters are more limited in the choice of color. However, they prefer the effects of positive and negative space and balance and imbalance. The human form has been central in the European culture. Traditional Chinese landscapes are closer for the Japanese painting; therefore, they use them. The Asian painting is abstract, and the European one is more realistic (Takashina 10).

Takashina insists that Japanese painting is extremely important for the world art. There are large collections of the Japanese paintings in many world museums including the USA. The stereotypes relate Japanese culture only to yoga. However, Japanese painters create their unusual and very sophisticated art through the natural motifs. Moreover, Takashina reveals the fact that Japanese painting has its impact on the Western art bringing its cultural peculiarities. The art movements in Japanese painting were preconditioned by the growth of both directions in the arts: European and Asian (Cahill 10).

Without a doubt, Japanese paintings influenced back to China and Europe. First of all, it is evident in the sophisticated ornaments and the theme of nature. The similarities between European and Asian cultures are also evident. First of all, they both have an impact on the development of Japanese painting. Another similarity is in the promotion of the cultural values. Natural objects and geometric ones are the most used themes for depicting in Japanese art. All objects are based on symbolism, ambiguity, and implication and reveal the subject of the unity of people and nature. There are many similarities in Asian and European cultures. First of all, both of them are operating in the post-modernistic direction involving Japanese culture. However, it should be mentioned that depicted objects can have different meaning in different cultures.

One can see geometric, calligraphic and vegetal (plantlike) decorations on Japanese paintings. There is nothing strange that the Japanese used such decorations starting from architectural building to the smallest porcelain objects. Ornaments in the form of human figures and animals are met more rarely on their pictures than the beauty of nature. At first sight, Japanese paintings can seem to be primitive and simple depicting dragon and flowers. However, one should not forget that everything original is simple. Looking at this painting thoughtfully and earnestly, one can understand that it is symbolic, very ambiguous, and one can give many interpretations of it. It is moving, realistic, and original in tone and atmosphere.

Equilateral triangles, hexagons, polygons, and squares decorate Japanese paintings, and it is evident that such ornaments are characteristic for Asian culture. Islamic motifs are based on symmetry. Repetition and mirroring of geometric design are applied to create symmetry. It is a representation of harmony and exactness in art (Sentence 17).

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In conclusion, one should say that Japanese painting has an ancient history. However, the problem is that it was admitted later under the influence of the European and Asian cultures. The painting getting influences from Asia and the painting getting influences from Europe were more reputable at that time; therefore, they had been the driving forces of the Japanese art. It is evident that Japanese painting is unique because of its devotion to the theme of nature. Buddhism had become the religion that inspired both Chinese and Japanese painters. Asian and European artists use different techniques of drawing. However, Japanese art involves only those that are the most important. Natural objects and geometric ones are the key ornaments in Japanese painting.