notes on the development of scroll painting over the last 150
of Japanese painting
Poetry painting. Abbreviated playful painting, matching
equally abbreviated haiku poems. A style often practiced by
look at the Toro (Lantern) Scroll here:
This is a typical example of this style.
Click for bigger image-scroll on the
Bonsai and Tea house section
This became what
was termed as the official painting style
of the Japense goverment. Popular in Edo as
well as in Kyoto. Kano was
based on Chinese styles from the Muromachi period.
Painting in the broken-ink technique (hoboku) and adding colour
to traditional subjects. Saying that , sumei style (ink
paintings) Kano was also popular
Nagasaki, KanÙ and Maruyama-ShijÙ painting styles with a very
Maruyama ’kyo, emphasises the artists study
of and response to nature.(Shaseiga).
The Muromachi school originated under the
influence of the Chinese Sung and Yang dynasty paintings
that were brought to Japan during the later
Sung Dynasty with many other art subject mater like Puntsai
(Bonsai) and silk clothing and material and later into the 14th
century by Zen monks who could make a small
income from painting.
Is a painting style influenced by the Chinese (and
the Dutch) at Nagasaki.
Also known as Bunjinga, a literati painting style
worshipping things Chinese, includes painting and poetry, and
prizing amateur status.
This is the 'native' Japanese style developed in
the Meiji period by teachers at the newly established academies.
Mixed traditional Japanese styles mixed with Western techniques.
Marked differences apparent between the Tokyo and Kyoto based
A decorative painting style.
A style that is closely
related to Maruyama painting, but a little
more poetic, less restricted and with a more innovative
This is also known as the Yamato-e style. Official
court painting style, specialised in Japanese subjects.
There was a general revival of this style
in the beginning of the 19th century.
Colourful miniature like brushwork with a long
tradition of panting hand scrolls (emaki). Known widely
as Ukiyo-e which are the paintings
of urban life. These have
a particular emphasis on the pleasures of the 'floating world':
prostitution, fashion, kabuki, sumo and other recreations.Japan
was called the floating world.
Although these can be paintings
they are more often calligraphies drawn
by Zen priests and laymen
Japanese painting, western influences and how changes in fashion
have affected scroll art
Sansuiga (landscape painting) is a genre of the
picture which developed in China through the early Sung Dynasty
and when that arrived in the 19th Century started to be more
representative of traditional scenic views. Often hung in homes
at certain times of the year, the Landscape painting of China
usually had descriptions or poems about the view. However when
the art developed in Japan the many views of Japan developed
earlier and became extremely popular as woodblock prints which
were an inexpensive means of printing that allowed the ordinary
person to have some art representation of views of Japan in
their own homes. One centre of Woodblock printing was in Kyoto
which was a popular tourist destination even for the Japanese
well before the west arrived with Commander Perrys Black ships
in 1852 and 1854. Buying a print or a book of prints would be an
excellent way for a visitor to take back home a reminder of a
wonderful trip. Even today, the Japanese love to travel and
instead of buying prints simply take pictures with their cameras
of everything and anything that moves or stands still. Art
collection and appreciation was no longer one of the pursuits of
the ruling classes and Samurai leaders. In the 19th century the
art of the great woodblock painters came to the fore in Europe
and heralded the inspiration for the growth of what became
Although Japanese art in the western style did not fully open up
until a little later in the late 19th century it
opened with an almost evangelical move from the population that
could afford to gratify their desire for western fashions and
ideas. An explosion of a kind of freedom meant that many of the
old trades and arts were put to one side in favour of more
western ideas. Fortunately the traditional arts were kept by a
few and these returned gradually during the early part of the 20th
century and it s from this period that many fine scrolls were
created for the emerging Western export markets. One of these
markets was for the popular oriental type goods for Western
homes in Europe and America. The Dutch East India Company
through their trade compound in Nagasaki had been exporting
these kinds of goods from Japan for almost 200 years and they
were quite expensive but now the market was wide open and prices
became affordable for some quite wonderful artwork. One modern
example of this story of the Japanese coming to terns with the
west was in Stephen Sondheim’s opera, Pacific Overtures(1976)
which I had worked as fight director for the Japanese Sword
scenes in this Opera in 1987 at English National Opera. One song
stands out for me and that was ‘A
Bowler Hat’ which neatly encapsulates the show's theme, as a
Samurai gradually sells out to the Westerners. This was , for
me, a masterpiece by Sondheim to crystallise the change that
many Japanese went through quite willingly. Not all but enough
to drive the way forward.
The word san means yama (mountains), sui
means mizu (river), ga means a picture. There is
the work which aimed at reproduction of real scenery, but there
is also "created scenery" "image scenery" which constituted
scenery elements such as the mountains / trees / rocks / rivers
by realism again. Artistic licence. Taking an existing scene and
enhancing it in a way that would attract the buyer to place this
on the wall of their home. but more than this it was a
representation of a spiritual place. Mountains where spirits
reigned, hidden valleys full of myths and legends.
The art of Japan has a powerful Chinese influence. There was
originally no word for simply "Fukeiga (Fukei=scenery-ga=Picture)".
The picture which assumed a representation of natural scenery
was simply called "a landscape painting". Originally "Sansuiga
(landscape painting)" began as spiritual world expression to be
based on a legendary Chinese hermit with miraculous powers of
thought.. On the other hand, the Meiji era began, and the words
of "scenery" became established with the full-scale introduction
of Western paintings. In "Fukeiga (Scenery)",the eyes of
the naturalism or realism assumed a form that was different from
a conventional "Sansuiga (landscape painting)" the
basis of the landscape scenery style of painting were
incorporated, and natural reproduction by a rational technique
was aimed at the subject matter of the art work.. However, while
taking in such techniques, some of the traditional Japanese
landscape painting became based on a sense of beauty of the
subject matter rather than the actual image itself. So floating
clouds and misty forests, cool waterfalls and scented glades
became the holy grail of the Japanese Landscape painter of
scrolls.. The scroll therefore does not have to be as detailed
as a western landscape but rather an impression, a feeling of
what the viewer is looking at. A successful landscape scroll
delivers this. The waterfall should make you feel cool ad the
forest should suggest the smell of damp leaves and birdsong and
the mountain should make you feel that you become part of the
birds flying below the cold peaks.
Viewing a Japanese landscape scroll relies on the viewer
relaxing and becoming one with the scene.
Figurative art has remained largely the same. Modern examples
from the early 20th century until the mid 1960’s
relied on traditional woodblock prints of detailed costume pink
faces with lined eyes and facial features and little or some
background. Quite beautiful, these rarer paintings were all
about the detail. This detail is shown in the Takasago and
Shogun paintings. Originally these were quite simple with some
detail. Around the 18th century they started to
change and developed into the art from of the woodblock in the
mid 19th century. Well why change something that does
not need to be changed. Later artists utilized the stylistic
approach of the 1850’s to the scrolls of the 1950’s and these
were well appreciated by both Japanese and foreign buyers. In
some cases, the painting was so well thought of that the artists
even made the matching box and inscribed lengthy detail on the
inside and the back of the box.
Notes on Takasago:
PINE OF TAKASAGO and Jo and UBA
It represents a scene from a Noh play
based on the subject of the Eternal Couple from the Legend of
Jo and Uba were supposed to have fallen in love when young,
and after living to a very old age their spirits came to abide
in pine trees,one on the beach at Takasago in Harima, and the other at
Sumiyoshi in Sesshu near Osaka. Their spirits returned on
moonlit nights in human form with rakesto continue their work of clearing the pine needles on Takasago
Jo and Uba are therefore the Gods of Marriage
A word may be said also regarding the curious associations of
animals and plants, to which some symbolism originally attached,
but which apparently have been repeated very much like the
copies of Chinese pictures, out of respect for tradition only.
Amongst others will be noted the Quail and Millet, Peacock and
Peony, Shishi and Peony, Swallow and Willow, Tiger and Bamboo,
Plum Blossom and Moon, Chidori and Waves, Deer and Maple, Boar
and Lespedeza, most of which are of frequent occurrence. The
Snake is also often shown coiled around a Tortoise sometimes
with jewel (Tamo), reminiscent of the Snake and Egg Myth and
then associated with Bishamon.
CRANE, Emblem of longevity, attribute of Seiobo, Jurojin, Fukuro
~ . Kujiu, Tobusako, Jofuku, Wasobioye, Oshikio, Yoritomo, Toyu,
Jo and UBA, Kohaku. Kaxgai Sennin ; Isetsu ;
Kodokwa ; Teireii. Crane, Conch Shell which is the emblem of the
PINE (Matsu). Emblem of strength, endurance, longevity, because
it is believed that its sap turns into amber after a thousand
years; the "Sea Pine" is a fossilised wood, almost translucent,
pieces of which were much prized as netsuke.
PINE, red and black, emblematic of happy marriage. ,,
TORTOISE. (freely crossed meaning with Turtle) Emblem of
Birds and Animals:
Birds and animals also remained largely the same as before.
Birds are usually depicted in much greater detail and auspicious
birds suc as Eagles usually have great detail while the crane in
both Japan and China holds great significance. Crane paintings
seem to have less detail and are more about shape, design and
story. Two cranes are depicted together to suggest marriage
and are included in mythology paintings such as Takasago
Tsuru: The Japanese Crane
Many classical Japanese folktales and paintings have appeared,
featuring the beauty of tsuru in their long necks
and legs. They are winter migratory birds, that fly to Japan in
October from Siberia and Mongolia, returning the following year
in March. In Japan they are valued especially as animals
symbolizing long life and are often used for festive designs and
decorations. Senbazuru (One Thousand Cranes) of
origami (folded paper) are sent to the sick to pray for
recovery from illness and for long life. Cranes are also birds
that mate for life and as this is such an auspicious behaviour,
giving such a scroll to a newly married couple or for a wedding
anniversary is a profound and meaningful thing to do.
on scrolls of animals usually reflect legends , mythology or
rarely actual animals.
In some scrolls
Yamabushi Tengu, the long nose Goblin, directs the
forest monkeys against the peaceful Tanuki. Monkeys were either
thought to be deities, disease infested forest pests or in
Chinese Mythology, very high up in the Deity pecking order, The
Monkey King is a traditional character from Chinese Opera. Many
of these myths found their way into Japan and these were adapted
and changed along the way.
The Fox Priest:
The Fox who became a Priest:
traditional Japanese fable tells of an old fox who has grown
tired of being hunted.
He disguises himself as an elderly priest named Hakuzosu, known
for his love of foxes.
The fox visits a nephew of the priest who is a hunter and tells
him of the many virtues of foxes, as well as of the punishments
that come to men who take life. Satisfied that he has
accomplished his mission, he leaves to return home. On the way,
he begins to turn back to his true form and loses the capacities
of foresight and reason. A baited trap before him is an
irresistible temptation and he is caught. Yoshitoshi shows the
disguised priest walking among tangled weeds in the moonlight.
As he glances over his shoulder,
we are made aware of his true nature by the change which has
already occurred in his face...The fable may be: People may not
be what you think they are, but always look on the other side of
is the Japanese word for the Japanese raccoon dog (Nyctereutes
procyonoides viverrinus). They have been part of Japanese
folklore since ancient times. The legendary tanuki is reputed to
be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shape
shifting, but somewhat gullible and absent-minded.
Tanuki is often mistakenly translated as raccoon or badger.
Statues of tanuki can be found outside many Japanese temples and
restaurants, especially noodle shops. These statues often wear
big, cone-shaped hats and carry bottles of sake in one hand, and
a promissory note or empty purse in the other hand. Tanuki
statues always have large bellies. The statues also usually show
humorously large testicles, typically hanging down to the floor
or ground, although this feature is sometimes omitted in
November 8 is the date for the Tanuki holiday because the
emperor made his famous visit in November and because the tanuki
has eight special traits that bring good fortune. The eight
traits are: (1) a bamboo hat that protects against trouble, (2)
big eyes to perceive the environment and help make good
decisions, (3) a sake bottle that represents virtue, (4) a big
tail that provides steadiness and strength until success is
achieved, (5) over-sized testicles that symbolize financial
luck, (6) a promissory note that represents trust, (7) a big
belly that symbolizes bold decisiveness, and (8) a friendly
The comical image of the tanuki is thought to have developed
during the Kamakura era. The actual wild tanuki has unusually
large testicles, a feature that has inspired humorous
exaggeration in artistic depictions of the creature. Tanuki may
be shown with their testicles flung over their backs like
travellers' packs, or using them as drums. As tanuki are also
typically depicted as having large bellies, they may be depicted
as drumming on their bellies instead of their testicles --
particularly in contemporary art.
A common schoolyard song in Japan (the tune of which can be
heard in the arcade game Ponpoko and a variation of which is
sung in the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko) makes explicit
reference to the tanuki's anatomy:
Tan Tan Tanuki no kintama wa,
Kaze mo nai no ni,
Roughly translated, this means "Tan-tan-tanuki's testicles,
there isn't even any wind but still go swing-swing-swing."It
then proceeds to continue for several verses, with many regional
variations. It is sung to the melody of an American Baptist hymn
called "Shall We Gather At The River?".
.During the Kamakura and Muromachi eras, some stories began to
include more sinister tanuki. The Otogizoshi story of "Kachi-kachi
Yama" features a tanuki that clubs an old lady to death and
serves her to her unknowing husband as "old lady soup," an
ironic twist on the folkloric recipe known as "tanuki soup."
Other stories report tanuki as being harmless and productive
members of society. Several shrines have stories of past priests
who were tanuki in disguise. Shapeshifting tanuki are sometimes
believed to be tsukumogami, a transformation of the souls of
household goods that were used for one hundred years or more.
A popular tale known as Bunbuku chagama is about a tanuki who
fooled a monk by transforming into a tea-kettle. Another is
about a tanuki who tricked a hunter by disguising his arms as
tree boughs, until he spread both arms at the same time and fell
off the tree. Tanuki are said to cheat merchants with leaves
they have magically disguised as paper money. Some stories
describe tanuki as using leaves as part of their own
In metalworking, tanuki skins were often used for thinning gold.
As a result, tanuki became associated with precious metals and
metalwork. Small tanuki statues were marketed as front yard
decoration and good luck charm for bringing in prosperity. Also,
this is why tanuki is described as having large kintama (金玉
lit. gold ball, means a testicle in Japanese slang).
A kakemono (掛物,
"hanging"), more commonly referred to as a kakejiku (掛軸,
"hung scroll"), is a Japanese scroll painting
or calligraphy mounted
usually with silk fabric
edges on a flexible backing, so that it can be rolled for storage.
As opposed to makimono, which
are meant to be unrolled laterally on a flat surface, a kakemono is
intended to be hung against a wall as part of the interior
decoration of a room. It
is traditionally displayed in the tokonoma alcove
of a room especially designed for the display of prized objects.
When displayed in a chashitsu, or
teahouse for the traditional tea
ceremony, the choice of the kakemono and
its complementary flower
arrangement help set the
spiritual mood of the ceremony. Often the kakemonoused
for this will bear calligraphy of a Zen phrase in the hand of a
distinguished Zen master.
In contrast to byōbu (folding
screen) or shohekiga (wall
paintings), kakemono can
be easily and quickly changed to match the season or occasion.
The kakemono was
introduced to Japan during the Heian
period, primarily for displaying Buddhist images
for religious veneration, or as a vehicle to display calligraphy or poetry.
From the Muromachi
period,landscapes, flower and bird paintings, portraiture,
and poetry became the favorite themes.
If the width is shorter than the height, it is called a vertical
work (竪物 tatemono) or
Standing Scroll (立軸tatejiku)(needs
verification); if the width is longer than the height, it is
called a horizontal work (横物yokomono) or
horizontal scroll (横軸 yokojiku).
The "Maruhyousou" style of kakejiku has four distinct named
sections. The top section is called the "ten" heaven. The bottom is
the "chi" earth with the "hashira" pillars supporting the heaven and
earth on the sides. The maruhyousou style, (not pictured above) also
contains a section of "ichimonji" made from "kinran" gold thread.On
observation, the Ten is longer than the Chi. This is due to the fact
that in the past, Kakemono were viewed from a kneeling (seiza)
position and provided perspective to the "Honshi" main work. This
tradition carries on to modern times.
There is a cylindrical rod called jikugi (軸木)
at the bottom, which becomes the axis or center of the rolled
scroll. The end knobs on this rod are in themselves called jiku,
and are used as grasps when rolling and unrolling the scroll. Other
parts of the scroll include the "jikubo" referenced above as the
jikugi. The top half moon shaped wood rod is named the "hassou" to
which the "kan" or metal loops are inserted in order to tie the "kakehimo"
hanging thread. Attached to the jikubo are the "jikusaki", the term
used for the end knobs, which can be inexpensive and made of plastic
or relatively decorative pieces made of ceramic or lacquered wood.
Additional decorative wood or ceramic pieces are called "fuchin" and
come with multicolored tassels. The variation in the kakehimo,
jikusaki and fuchin make each scroll more original and unique