Japan art and Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795): Herons and puppies

Japan art and Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795): Herons and puppies

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Maruyama Ōkyo was very creative concerning art. Thus he blessed the Japanese art scene in the eighteenth century and inspired many future artists.

The Cleveland Museum of Art says, “Okyo was the most influential painter and teacher of his time in Kyoto. His mastery of brush and ink found expression in a variety of Chinese and Japanese subjects, painting styles, and formats. This depiction of a heron on a willow branch is done in a classical Japanese painting (yamato-e) style, utilizing flat areas of colorful pigments set against an expansive background with little or no spatial depth.”

The heron in the first image – and the puppies playing above – highlight the utter professionalism of Ōkyo. This concerns detail and the life-like appearances of the puppies above.

The Minneapolis Institute of Art says, “One of O_kyo’s great innovations was to sketch directly from nature. This approach, together with his interest in anatomy, led to works imbued with Western realism. Even when O_kyo painted in the traditional broad brush manner, as seen here, his use of foreshortening gave his subjects a convincing degree of volume. While O_kyo painted a wide range of subjects, including figures, animals, and landscapes, his lighthearted portrayals of gamboling puppies are particularly numerous.”

In the art piece above, the Metropolitan Museum of Art says, “Blank paper is left in reserve for the bodies of the herons, silhouetted by soft, misty wash rather than ink outline. Instead of depending on images from copybooks for inspiration, Maruyama Ōkyo, founder of the Maruyama-Shijo school and proponent of naturalism in painting, practiced sketching from life. He created images of birds, animals, and fish drawn from every angle, and captured the atmospheric effects of rain, mist, and snow.”

Ōkyo moved to Kyoto and fused ideas from China, his native Japan, and Western sources that he knew. He founded the esteemed art school of Maruyama. Overall, a stunning artist!

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