4.5 Yoga and Nihonga

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What does Yōga mean in the context of Japanese painting?

During which era was the categorization of Yōga and Nihonga established in Japan?

What materials were typically used by Nihonga artists for their paintings?

Who were the primary maintainers of bijin-ga in the Edo/Tokugawa period?

What art style emerged as a revival of archaic and native subject matter in the Edo/Tokugawa period?

What characterized Nihonga's subject matters?

What art style in the Meiji period gravitated towards Western techniques and materials?

Which artist is considered the father of Yōga?

What led to the decline in the popularity of Yōga in the Meiji period?

What did Hishida use to create an asymmetrical composition in the painting?

How did Hishida demonstrate his observation of the world around him in the painting?

What did the detailed textures of the tree trunks gradually indicate as the trees become smaller?

How did Hishida balance the relative fullness of distant trees to the left?

What anchors the painting as its focal point in the foreground?


Yōga and Nihonga: The Evolution of Japanese Art in the Meiji Period

  • In the early Meiji period, Japan aimed to modernize and emulate the West in various aspects, including the art world.
  • Yōga and Nihonga were born in this historical context, with Yōga representing Japan's more diverse artistic side, gravitating towards Western techniques and materials.
  • Japanese artists in the Yōga style used European art techniques such as oil paint on canvas, ink, pastels, and watercolor to create realistic 2-dimensional pictures.
  • Even before Japan opened to the world in 1854, some artists were already studying Western pictorial representations, as seen in Japanese woodblock prints by Katsushika Hokusai.
  • The government in the Meiji era was eager to adopt Western practices, leading to the establishment of art academies and technical schools to teach Western art and design techniques.
  • A backlash against intense westernization in the 1880s led to the revival of Japanese traditions in art, resulting in Nihonga, and a decline in the popularity of Yōga.
  • Kuroda Seiki, considered the father of Yōga, played a crucial role in revitalizing the style by infusing Japanese elements into Western-style oil paintings.
  • Kuroda's approach signaled the liberation of artistic freedom for Yōga artists, going beyond simply transplanting foreign formal elements.
  • Kuroda's famous painting "Lakeside" features a traditional beauty in a kimono, resonating with the Japanese tradition of Bijin-ga, which depicts images of beautiful women in Japanese art history.
  • "Lakeside" was a far cry from Kuroda's more experimental pieces, but its harmonious blue tonality and traditional subject matter conveyed a completely Japanese feeling, theme, and mood.
  • Kuroda's successful infusion of Japanese aesthetics into Western-style paintings inspired many influential Yōga artists of his generation and beyond.
  • The establishment of Yōga and Nihonga reflects the duality in Japanese painting, showcasing a fluctuation between Japanese tradition and Westernization in search of its modern identity.

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