Rinpa Art

The House of Rinpa is decorated throughout with pieces of "rinpa"-style artwork.
What exactly was this art movement, that mastered one pinnacle of Japanese artistic beauty, and greatly influenced even artists overseas? Here, we'll delve into the details.

1Characteristics of Rinpa Artwork

Bold layouts and refined design

"Rinpa" refers to a school of art—as well as its artists and their works—with a common, distinctive style of expression that rose to prominence in the late Momoyama Period (1573-1603) and saw a revival in the modern period.
With a foundation in the traditions of the great paintings of the Heian Period (794-1185) depicting imperial culture, bright hues and the skillful use of decorative gold elements are characteristic of Rinpa artwork.

Rinpa also involves extremely delicate work, such as the "tarashikomi" technique, in which colors are encouraged to blur together before they have dried completely.
With its pursuit of traditional artistic beauty, all while using bold and novel designs, Rinpa has had a great effect on the modern world of Japanese art and design.

2The Rinpa Legacy

Talent growing from talent

The Rinpa School was carried on through a process known as "shishuku," which refers not to blood or teacher-student ties, but to the inspiration of one artist by another, and the reverent recreation of that artist's works.
In each era, artists bring out their own distinct styles, as they continue the work of the artists before them, inheriting the Rinpa tradition.
This free-style ethos is still a large part of what draws people to Rinpa to this day.

Family Tree of Principal Rinpa Artists

Artists whose works can be seen in the Rinpa Inn

  • Sakai Hoitsu(1761~1829)
    Born into a samurai family, Sakai Hoitsu was fond of haiku poetry, noh theater, tea, painting, and calligraphy when he entered the priesthood at the age of 37. It was after studying pictures drawn from life, ukiyo-e, the art of the Tosa school, the Maruyama school, and others before Hoitsu came upon the works of Ogata Korin. Exhibiting a feeling of delicacy and keen emotion one might expect of a wordly figure from the capital city of Edo in the Bunka-Bunsei Period (1804-1830), Hoitsu's works are characterized both by great sentiment and by a carefree style.
  • Suzuki Kiitsu(1796~1858)
    Apprentice to Sakai Hoitsu, Suzuki Kiitsu learned to carry on his master's style from early on, and became talented enough to paint in Hoitsu's name. After his master's death, Kiitsu established an independent style of his own, using sharp colors and composition. Whereas Hoitsu's painted screens were delicate and graceful, Kiitsu's new, clear-cut style of painting and modern sensitivities connect his work to more modern styles of Japanese painting, and his popularity has risen especially in recent years.
  • Ikeda Koson(1801~1866)
    Ikeda Koson did not limit his artistic endeavors only to painting and calligraphy, as he was also well-versed in the arts of tea ceremony and waka poetry. As an apprentice in Sakai Hoitsu's studio, he and Suzuki Kiitsu soon became central figures. His works were used as models in a book of paintings published in his later years, and his artistic style proved influential overseas, as well. Amongst Koson's paintings, there are many fresh pieces that seem to anticipate the style of modern "nihonga"-style paintings.
  • Kamisaka Sekka(1866~1942)
    Kamisaka Sekka was hugely influential in the Japanese art world, working to revive Rinpa traditions in Kyoto during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), when the capital had been moved to Tokyo and westernization was under way. Sekka worked with a wide variety of mediums, including lacquerware, porcelain, and dyed designs. Based in tradition, but pursuing a new, bold decorative beauty, his work received high praise internationally in his day. In recent years, interest in his design style has been reawoken in Japan, where Sekka is regarded as the last master of the Rinpa tradition.

Places to View Rinpa Artwork

The finest elements of imperial culture are gathered together in Kyoto, and even now, there are many locations in Kyoto to view Rinpa artworks.

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