Japan art and rinpa: Nakamura Hochu and Korin Gafu

Japan art and rinpa: Nakamura Hochu and Korin Gafu

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Nakamura Hochu was born in the eighteenth century and died in 1819. Sadly, little is known about the life of Hochu – apart from his love of rinpa (rimpa) art, a deep admiration of Ogata Korin, and being born in the Kansai region.

The Met Museum says, “The Rinpa School (which can also be pronounced Rimpa) was a key part of the Edo period revival of indigenous Japanese artistic interests described by the term yamato-e. Paintings, textiles, ceramics, and lacquerwares were decorated by Rinpa artists with vibrant colors applied in a highly decorative and patterned manner. Favored themes, which often contained evocative references to nature and the seasons, were drawn from Japanese literature, notably The Tale of Genji, The Tales of Ise, and Heian-period poems composed by courtiers.”

In the Korin Gafu (An album of pictures based on the artwork designs of Korin), a book by Hochu, he does delightful illustrations based on the style of Korin.

Rinpa art is distinctive because it is connected to Japanese high culture. Also, it was initially funded by wealthy Nichiren Buddhist merchants based in the environs of Kyoto. Ukiyo-e is equally distinctive concerning Japanese art. However, this art form focused on an array of themes outside of high culture. Hence, the spectrum of ukiyo-e covered beautiful ladies (bijin-ga), historical events, erotica (shunga), kabuki, war, landscapes, murders, nature, and an array of other themes. Therefore, the Japanese high culture angle fits naturally with rinpa – unlike ukiyo-e.

Ogata Kōrin (1658-1716) was born in the early Edo Period in Japan. True to the nature of his art, he lived in Kyoto. Hence, you can feel the power of high culture in his sophisticated art. However, Kōrin also produced art that had a lighter side.

The RISD Museum says, “When the Korin gafu was first printed in 1802, artists painting in Ogata Korin’s style had all but vanished. Hochu’s work is unique in its innovative merging of the Rimpa painting style with new subject matter and the woodblock printing techniques of the ehon (printed picture book) tradition.”

Overall, the Korin Gafu book by Hochu is a treasure to behold. It not only highlights the legendary design styles of Korin by Hochu – but also provides the natural beauty of rinpa.

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