Traditional Japanese decorative art

An Introduction to Traditional Japanese Decorative Art

Do you have a love for traditional Japanese decorative art and would like to learn more? Or do you already have a large collection and are thinking of paring it down? Traditional Japanese artwork is among the world’s greatest treasures. For centuries, Japanese artists have created amazing bronze sculptures, woodblock prints, unique ink painting, calligraphy and interesting ceramics.

Nature in Art Forms

Nature has always been a central theme to traditional Japanese decorative art. Since its earliest days, Japanese artists have produced exquisite sculptures and paintings featuring landscapes, mountains, animals and beautiful women. Prior to Buddhism, Shinto was the faith of Japan. Shinto teaches reverence for deities who reside in nature, such as trees, rocks, mountains and rivers. A painting of a landscape was not just a picture of nature, but a portrait of the sacred world and the gods who live there.

Throughout the first thousand years, this love and adoration of nature took on new meanings when the Chinese brought other styles of art with them to Japan. Gradually, Japanese artists “borrowed” styles from the Chinese and transformed them to fit more common Japanese tastes. For example, the Chinese phoenix was substituted by Japanese long-tail birds, and local flowers and trees replaced unfamiliar Chinese plant life.

Zen Influences and Wabi-Sabi

The Chinese also brought the philosophy of Zen to Japan as early as the 1400s and it quickly made its mark on many forms of art. Zen monks began to create ink paintings which reflected the importance of empty space and simplicity to both their religion and art.

Another Zen-influenced concept of art is known as wabi-sabi. Although difficult to translate, wabi-sabi highlights the philosophy of impermanence and imperfection. It creates the preference of understated colors and earth tones over bright colors and glitter; as well as the beauty of hand molded, irregular shaped pottery versus wheel-thrown, more perfect ceramics.

The Edo Era

The Edo era was a long period of economic stability lasting from 1615 to 1868 in Japan. Cities were growing and society was booming. However, there was a strict enforcement of social classes. At the bottom of this system were merchants, then the artisans and farmers, and the top ranks were the samurai who served in the government.

Because of the strong economy, goods of all kinds, especially artwork such as woodblock prints, became very popular. It was considered very sophisticated to own these prints- common subjects were fashion, beauty, and urban life. Courtesans and kabuki actors were often brought to life in these prints with their hairstyles, make-up and lavish kimono perfectly portrayed.

Japanese Influence

Japanese art has had an astonishing influence on the more modern art of the French Impressionists. Compare the paintings of Monet’s “Waterlilies” or Degas’ dancers to the work of Japanese artists and see the similarities.

Do you have pieces of Japanese art that you are interested interested in selling? Showplace Estate Buyers can help. We have appraisers, art historians, and antique dealers who can appraise and value your art. Let us buy your precious art and give you top dollar. Contact us today!

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