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Humanities LibreTexts

13.7: Nihonga and Yoga Style

  • Page ID
  • Nihonga Style Yoga Style
    Tomioka Tessai Two Divinities Dancing Kuroda Seiki Lakeside
    Takeuchi Seiho Tabby Cat Asai Chu Harvest
    Uemura Shoen Jo-No-Mai Fujishima Takeji Reminiscence of the Tempyo Era

    Nihonga paintings are traditional Japanese artistic techniques and materials applied to modern paintings. The methods are based on a thousand years of Japanese art history, created on paper or silk in one or multiple colors. Monochrome works are created with ink made from ashes mixed with glue while polychrome works are created with colors made of minerals, shells, or other natural minerals that are ground up and mixed with binders. Many of the works are in the form of screens or panels and are not put under glass as in traditional paintings.

    Yoga painting is based on western-style paintings by Japanese artists and uses techniques and materials found in European art. The term yoga was created to differentiate this style of art from the traditional style of Japanese art. Yoga painting is based on oil paints, ink, pastels, watercolors, all resources used by European artists and introduced to Japan by the Christian missionaries.

    Nihonga style painters

    Tomioka Tessai (1837 –1924) was a painter and calligrapher and considered to be one of the first major artists of the Nihonga style. His original name was Yusuke, but he used Tessai as his pseudonym. Two Divinities Dancing, (13.77) was painted in 1924 on eginu (silk) using brushes and inks. The gradations of black ink are controlled by the artist, who carefully regulates how much water and pressure are added to the brush. Takeuchi Seihō (1864 - 1942), also a Japanese painter of the Nihonga genre, was one of the founders of Nihonga. His worked for over half a century and was thought of as the master of the prewar painters. Tabby Cat (13.78) depicts the careful and precision Nihonga style painting of a spotted tabby cat. It has a short tail, which was common in Japan, the cat is in the form of an “S” when viewing its back while the cat is looking back at us while grooming itself.

    Two Divinities Dancing
    13.77 Two Divinities Dancing

    Uemura Shōen (1875 – 1949) (real name was Uemura Tsune) was an important female artist in Japan. She was known primarily for her bijinga paintings of beautiful women in the Nihonga style, although she did create work on historical themes and traditional subjects. Jo-no-Mai (13.79) was inspired by a dance performed during the play Soshi-arai Komachi. The exquisitely painted Geisha woman seems to float on the canvas.

14.18 Tabby Cat
    13.78 Tabby Cat
    13.79 Jo-no-Mai

    Yoga style painters

    One of the leaders of the Yoga movement was Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924), who brought Western ideas to Japan. Studying art in Paris, Seiki was influenced by Impressionism and Post-impressionism. Lakeside (13.80) was a Plein aire painting similar to how the great masters painted in France, showing a young woman at a lake. Asai Chū (1856-1907) was known for his pioneering work to develop the Yoga style in Japan and clearly shows the influence of Impressionism and Realism in his painting Harvest (13.81), displaying colors unusual in Japanese paintings. Fujishima Takeji (1867–1943) developed his style of using Romanticism and Impressionism within the Yoga style in Japan, as portrayed in Butterflies (13.82). He used oil paint and a natural composition with shadows creating depth, yet still portraying the woman closeup with butterflies.

    14.20 Lakeside
    13.80 Lakeside
    14.21 Harvest
    13.81 Harvest
    13.82 Butterflies
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