Japanese painting (Nihon-ga)
The history of the picture what is called the "Japanese painting (Nihon-ga)"
today was old, and it was brought a thousand and several hundred years
ago to Japan.
The paint to use for the Nihon-ga is a mineral pigment crushed in the
shape of powder called "Iwa-enogu", and the beauty of the color is characteristic of the Nihon-ga. The picture which is the source of the Nihon-ga does existing in the countries of East Asia, the main point of the Silk Road and that reminds us of the width of the then trade, but it is only the Nihon-ga that succeed this technique today, and it is the painting which is valuable worldwide.
The word "Nihon-ga"
"Nihon-ga" consists of two words, "Nihon" and "ga". The former means Japan,
and the latter does painting. Speaking of the Nihon-ga, a traditional Sumi-e (ink brush painting), Byobu etc. are generally recalled, but actually there is not the Japanese
painting as those styles before the Edo era, and it is the word made
up in comparison with the Western painting for the first time in the Meiji
era. It contains not only a meaning as the Japanese traditional painting,
but also a meaning as the painting of the new style of the Western painting
method while being in succession to the Japanese traditional painting. Today the word "Nihon-ga" does not mean to a specific picture style, and
is often interpreted as the painting which is painted with Iwa-enogu.
In the fifth century the Buddhism culture reached Japan, and the Chinese style painting rooted in Japan.
Not only the influence of China but also that of the Buddhist mural painting
in India is left to the Horyuji Hekiga (Mural paintings of Horyuji temple) ,
it teaches us the roots of the Buddhist art.
When it was the tenth century, the Japanese picture began to leave Chinese
strong influence and tied to racial sensitivity and created styles called
the Yamato-e (a meaning to the Japanese painting in old language). The Picture scroll
of Genji tale in the Heian era is the typical of that. This unique picture-style
called picture scroll develops greatly in a much relation with the literature
in the Kamakura era. Furthermore, Yamato-e began to show the decorative characteristic called Syouhei-ga (painting
on Japanese screens) in the Momoyama era. And the style called Rimpa (Rimpa School) which interwove Japanese original
emotion in decorative, splendid expression was completed by prominent artists
Honami Koetsu, Tawaraya Sotatsu and Ogata Korin. The Expression of the Tarashikomi and the sense of
beauty settled as one of the characteristics of the Japanese traditional
On the other hand, Suiboku-ga (Ink brush painting) came from China as a part of the Zen culture of the Buddhism after the 14th century. The Samurai who gained
power in place of the nobles in the Muromachi era had sympathy about the
Zen culture with a severe spirituality, and it became the mainstream of
the then culture. The Nihon-ga had two elements : the Yamato-e and the Sumi-e.
In addition, although it was not involved in the category of the Japanese
traditional painting, the fact that the Ukiyo-e prospered as common people culture in the Edo era gave European Impressionists
so much influence later was a notable event. As the Ukiyo-e painter, Kitagawa Utamaro, Ando Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Toshusai Sharaku, etc. are famous globally. As the national isolation of Japan was over by the Meiji Restoration (1868)
and came to join the global community, the Western art flowed in one after
Maruyama Shijo-ha (Maruyama Shijo School) which attached great importance to realism studied the perspective of the Western painting and technique of the realism generally and made the basics of development of the later Japanese traditional painting.
View through waves off the coast of Kanagawa
However, the structure of the Nihon-ga painted with sumi (ink) or few
color (pigments) was too weak, and it was not powerful in comparison with
the structure of the strong oil painting image which plastered paint. Afterwards
the Japanese painter took colors and materials of the Western painting,
while maintaining two bases called Yamato-e and Sumi-e to reinforce the power of expression of the Japanese traditional painting.
It seemed to be the figure which challenged to the crisis of the destruction
of the Japanese traditional painting by the Western painting.
After World War II, the Japanese painters devoted to research into the
Italian fresco before the Renaissance, Tunhuang cave temple fresco in China.
And they created various color of the Iwa-enogu (mineral pigments), and even the firmness of the screen came not to be
inferior to the Western painting. However, the Suiboku-ga system gradually became old-fashioned, and the style that developed from yamato-e came to occupy the position of the mainstream of the Japanese traditional
painting. Only the painting which developed from yamato-e came to be called Nihon-ga (Japanese painting), and now the Suiboku-ga is away from the mainstream of painting circles in Japan.