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By jwblackwell



9 Questions

What is the preferred artistic expression in Japan?

What is ukiyo-e?

What is the Kamakura period known for in Japanese art?

What is the Kanō school known for?

What is the Meiji era known for in Japanese art?

What did the Encyclopædia Britannica say about Japanese textile fabrics?

What is one of the most notable contributions of Japanese artists to global contemporary art?

What is the diagonal in Japanese art?

What is used instead of direct statement in Japanese art?


Overview of Japanese Art

  • Japanese art encompasses various styles and media, including pottery, sculpture, ink painting, calligraphy, ukiyo-e paintings, woodblock prints, ceramics, origami, manga, and anime.
  • Japan has a long history of art, dating back to the 10th millennium BCE.
  • The Japanese people have a history of absorbing, imitating, and assimilating foreign cultural elements that complement their aesthetic preferences.
  • The earliest complex art in Japan was produced in the 7th and 8th centuries in connection with Buddhism.
  • After the Ōnin War, Japan entered a period of political, social, and economic disruption that lasted for over a century, during which the secular arts became increasingly important.
  • The Meiji Period saw a sudden influx of Western styles, which continue to be important.
  • Painting is the preferred artistic expression in Japan, with ukiyo-e becoming a major form during the Edo period.
  • Japanese pottery is among the finest in the world and includes the earliest known Japanese artifacts.
  • Japanese lacquerware is also one of the world's leading arts and crafts, and works gorgeously decorated with maki-e were exported to Europe and China.
  • Japanese architecture expresses a preference for natural materials and an interaction of interior and exterior space.
  • The Jōmon period (c. 10,500 – c. 300 BCE) was characterized by the production of lavishly decorated pottery storage vessels, clay figurines called dogū, and crystal jewels.
  • The Kofun period (c. 300 – 710 AD) is known for its tomb culture and artifacts such as bronze mirrors and clay sculptures called haniwa.
  • During the Asuka and Nara periods, the first significant influx of continental Asian culture took place in Japan.
  • The Heian period (794–1185) saw the official transfer of the capital of Japan to Heian-kyō (present-day Kyoto) and the introduction of Shingon, a form of Vajrayana Buddhism.Art in Japan: From Heian to Edo Periods

Heian art:

  • Heian art is characterized by Buddhist architecture and sculpture, along with narrative handscrolls.
  • The Heian period saw the development of the Shinden-zukuri style of aristocratic architecture.
  • The Hō-ō-dō (Phoenix Hall) of the Byōdō-in, a temple in Uji, exemplifies the Fujiwara Amida halls.
  • The Murō-ji temple, set in a stand of cypress trees on a mountain southeast of Nara, reflects the spirit of early Heian Shingon temples.
  • The Genji Monogatari Emaki, a famous illustrated Tale of Genji, represents the earliest surviving yamato-e handscroll.
  • E-maki serve as some of the earliest and greatest examples of the otoko-e ("men's pictures") and onna-e ("women's pictures") styles of painting.

Kamakura art:

  • The Kamakura period saw a shift of power from the nobility to the warrior class.
  • Realism, a popularizing trend, and a classical revival characterize the art of the Kamakura period.
  • The Kei school of sculptors, particularly Unkei, created a new, more realistic style of sculpture.
  • The Kegon Engi Emaki is an excellent example of the popularizing trend in Kamakura painting.
  • One of the most famous works of this period is an Amitabha Triad, created by Kaikei, Unkei's successor.

Muromachi art:

  • In the Muromachi period, cultural expression took on a more aristocratic, elitist character.
  • The priest-painters Shūbun and Sesshū are the foremost artists of the Muromachi period.
  • The Kanō school of painting was the most important school of painting in the Momoyama period.
  • Hasegawa Tōhaku developed a different and more decorative style for large-scale screen paintings.

Edo art:

  • The Edo period was characterized by the attempt to escape the repressive policies of the shogunate.

  • Katsura Palace in Kyoto and the paintings of Tawaraya Sōtatsu, pioneer of the Rinpa school, were produced in the early years of the Edo period.Overview of Japanese Art from Woodblock Printing to Meiji Era

  • Woodblock printing was used to reproduce printed text until innovations allowed for color to be translated on paper.

  • Nishiki-e prints produced goods such as calendars sold to wealthy members of society during the Edo period.

  • Ukiyo paintings depicted daily lives of prominent members of society and started out as hand-sculpted scrolls depicting life as a normal commoner.

  • Katsura Detached Palace contains a cluster of shoin buildings that combine elements of classic Japanese architecture with innovative restatements.

  • Sōtatsu evolved a superb decorative style by re-creating themes from classical literature, using brilliantly colored figures and motifs from the natural world set against gold-leaf backgrounds.

  • The school of art best known in the West is that of the ukiyo-e paintings and woodblock prints of the demimonde, the world of the kabuki theater and the pleasure districts.

  • Traditional, mostly stoneware, ceramics continued in many parts of Japan, but Japanese ceramics were transformed by a large influx of Korean potters.

  • The Meiji era saw a renewed interest in lacquer, metalwork, ivory carving, porcelain, and textiles.

  • The government took an active interest in the art export market, promoting Japanese arts at world's fairs and establishing the Hakurankai Jimukyoku to maintain quality standards.

  • The Meiji era turned porcelain into one of the most internationally successful Japanese decorative art forms.

  • The 1902 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica wrote, "In no branch of applied art does the decorative genius of Japan show more attractive results than that of textile fabrics."A Brief History of Japanese Art

  • After Japan opened to the world in the 19th century, Japanese art began to influence Western art, especially Impressionism and Art Nouveau.

  • In the first half of the 20th century, socialist realism dominated Japanese art due to the influence of the Japan Communist Party.

  • The 1960s saw an explosion of new art forms, including Neo-Dada Organizers, Zero Dimension, and Hi-Red Center, which explored concepts such as "non-art" and "anti-art."

  • The 1970s and 1980s saw Japanese art continue to expand in new directions, often with much bigger budgets and more expensive materials, as Japan's economy rapidly expanded.

  • Japanese contemporary art takes many forms, including traditional Japanese artistic techniques and materials, graphic design, pop art, wearable art, performance art, conceptual art, and installation art.

  • Traditional forms of Japanese music, dance, and theater have survived in the contemporary world and have enjoyed some popularity through reidentification with Japanese cultural values.

  • Japan's aesthetic conceptions, deriving from diverse cultural traditions, have been formative in the production of unique art forms.

  • Within the East Asian artistic tradition, China has been the acknowledged teacher and Japan the devoted student.

  • The diagonal, reflecting a natural flow, rather than the fixed triangle, became the favored structural device in Japanese art.

  • Japanese painters used the devices of the cutoff, close-up, and fade-out in yamato-e, or Japanese-style, scroll painting, perhaps one reason why modern filmmaking has been such a natural and successful art form in Japan.

  • Suggestion is used rather than direct statement in Japanese art, making it frustrating to Westerners trying to penetrate the meanings of literature, music, painting, and even everyday language.

  • Japanese artists have made especially notable contributions to global contemporary art in the fields of architecture, video games, graphic design, fashion, and perhaps above all, animation.


Test your knowledge of Japanese art with our comprehensive quiz that covers everything from pottery and sculpture to woodblock printing and contemporary art. Discover the different periods of Japanese art and the artists who made significant contributions to the field. From the early Jōmon period to the Meiji era, this quiz covers the major landmarks and trends in Japanese art history. Whether you are an art history buff or simply interested in learning more about Japanese culture, this quiz is a must-try!

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