Art of Japan and Shibata Zeshin: Beauty of simplicity

Art of Japan and Shibata Zeshin: Beauty of simplicity

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The artistic beauty of simplicity is illuminated by Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891). However, despite the simplicity of these art pieces in this article, several mysterious angles still appear. Therefore, the creativity of the imagination is a wonder to behold.

Zeshin is famous for being an esteemed lacquer craftsman. This isn’t surprising, for Zeshin hailed from a distinguished family of lacquerers. Therefore, the Tokugawa elites during the Edo Period trusted his family in this field of work.

In the above art piece, the mouse depicts a Buddhist monk. Naturally, the meaning could be a plethora of ideas. For example, the mouse represents the wealth of merchants – or it could denote monks in deep contemplation and at one with nature. Alternatively, the art piece might have no meaning whatsoever to the artist Zeshin.

The Met Museum says, “Painting with lacquer on paper was one of the techniques Zeshin developed into his own style. Despite the heavy material, Zeshin’s skillful brushwork and his technical inventions with the material made it possible to create various textures as with ink painting. In addition, some lacquer techniques, like mother-of-pearl inlays and the creation of rough surfaces, are also used. Up until the middle of the Meiji period, lacquer was limited to roughly five colors—black, brown, vermillion, green, and yellow—which determined the color palette of Zeshin’s lacquer paintings.”

Zeshin had a refined approach to art where simplicity became sophistication. Hence, irrespective of the subject matter – simple to sophisticated – the result was amazing and worked a treat.

In the delightful art piece with the fox by the fire, countless ideas enter the mind. Especially with foxes being connected to Shintoism and other aspects of Japanese culture. Therefore, simplicity became both beautiful and fascinating in the intriguing artwork of Zeshin.

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