Critical Perspectives on Classicism in Japanese Painting, 1600 - 1700

Critical Perspectives on Classicism in Japanese Painting, 1600 - 1700

Language: English

Pages: 312

ISBN: 082482699X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the West, classical art - inextricably linked to concerns of a ruling or dominant class - commonly refers to art with traditional themes and styles that resurrect a past golden era. Although art of the early Edo period (1600-1868) encompasses a spectrum of themes and styles, references to the past are so common that many Japanese art historians have variously described this period as a "classical revival," "era of classicism," or a "renaissance." How did seventeenth-century artists and patrons imagine the past? Why did they so often select styles and themes from the court culture of the Heian period (794-1185)? Were references to the past something new, or were artists and patrons in previous periods equally interested in manners that came to be seen as classical? How did classical manners relate to other styles and themes found in Edo art? In considering such questions, the contributors to this volume hold that classicism has been an amorphous, changing concept in Japan - just as in the West. Troublesome in its ambiguity and implications, it cannot be separated from the political and ideological interests of those who have employed it over the years. The modern writers who first identified Edo art as classical followed Western notions of canonicity and cultural authority, contributing to the invention of a timeless, unchanging notion of Japanese culture that had direct ties to the emergence of a modern national identity. The authors of the essays collected here are by no means unanimous in their assessment of the use of the label "classicism." Several reject it, arguing that it distorts our perception of the ways early Edo artists and audiences viewed art. Still others are comfortable with the term broadly defined as "uses of" or "the authority of various pasts." Although they may not agree on a definition of classicism and its applicability to seventeenth-century Japanese art, all recognize the relevance of recent scholarly currents that call into question methods that privilege Western culture. Their various approaches - from stylistic analysis and theoretical conceptualization to assessment of related political and literary trends - greatly increase our understanding of the art of the period and its function in society.

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to the Six Principles also includes Tosa Mitsuoki’s Honch≤ gah≤ taiden of 1690. By then the introduction to Japan of the Chinese painting manual The Mustard Seed Garden (Jieziyuan huazhuan) had caused varying interpretations of the Six Principles, but they remained a standard phrase used to praise paintings; Linhartová, Sur un fond blanc, 293. 47. Sakazaki, Kaigaron, 1:144. Te r m i n o l o g y a n d I d e o l o g y 49 48. Kobayashi and K≤no, “Teihon” Nihon kaigaron taisei, 6:40 – 41. See

calligraphers produced copies. Extant examples include works attributed to Hon’ami K≤etsu (1558 – 1637), Sh≤kad≤ Sh≤j≤ (1584 – 1639), and Konoe Nobutada (1565 – 1614) —the “Three Brushes of the Kan’ei Period”—as well as Kobori Ensh≥. The Genna period also saw the first book edition of the One Hundred Poets in movable type, but without illustrations. The Genna era was dominated by the diffusion of versions of the One Hundred Poets attributed to K≤etsu. These works are both handwritten and printed,

Poets: Sagami (Hyakunin isshu: Sagami), page from printed book, ?1623, one volume, 26.3 × 18.2 cm, Atomi Junior College Library. Poem Each Compilation (Manp≤ kashira-gaki hyakunin isshu taisei), the oldest extant edition with both kasen-e and commentary (the latter closely following the Y≥sai sh≤). As the introductory pictures make clear (Figure 5.7)—with their scenes of young women practicing calligraphy—this work was ostensibly designed for a primarily female audience who would model their

reliable evidence for these accounts.” See E. Papinot, Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan (Tokyo: Tuttle, 1972); originally published in 1910. 46. Pers. comm. 47. Joshua S. Mostow, “Picturing Love Among the One Hundred Poets,” in Love in Asian Art and Culture (Washington, D.C.: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1998), 30–47. 48. Kin’y≤sh≥ 9 (Misc. 1):880; in Yamagishi Tokuhei, ed., Hachidai zench≥ (Tokyo: Y≥seid≤, 1960). A New “Classical” Theme 165 49. Joshua S.

of cultural value. Next Trede explains ways in which late Edo authors borrowed terms related to classicism from Chinese aesthetic discourses to construct a protonationalist argument for the superiority of native styles of Japanese art and how, in the process, they laid the foundation for modern Japanese notions of canonicity. Finally, Trede exposes the twentieth-century discourse on Japanese artistic classicism—specifically, its use of Western terms such as “classical revival” and “renaissance” to

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