Japan Art and Sakai Hōitsu: Buddhism and Rinpa

Japan Art and Sakai Hōitsu: Buddhism and Rinpa

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1829) is one of the most acclaimed artists to have graced the Edo Period of Japanese history. Accordingly, his art continues to inspire people in modern Japan.

The flow of the Buddhist faith – similar to his graceful art – flowed naturally within his artistic soul. Indeed, in the last few decades of his life – he became a Buddhist monk.

The MET Museum says, “Hōitsu, an ardent admirer of the Kyoto artist Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716), strove to transplant the Rinpa aesthetic to Edo. Hōitsu was trained in painting as well as in the literary arts of haikai (seventeen-syllable seasonal verse) and kyōka (thirty-one-syllable witty verse).” 

Buddha said, “Those who cling to perceptions and views wander the world offending people.”

The Museum of Art (MOA) says, “The snow, the moon and the cherry blossom flowers are the three motifs representing the seasonal pleasures in Japan. Hōitsu composed the triad as one whole unit, thinking of the overall composition when three paintings are juxtaposed. Therefore he placed the snow and pine trees on the top, the moon in the clouds in the middle, and the cherry blossoms at the bottom of each screen. Hōitsu was a painter, poet, and researcher of the Rimpa School, but this work is a superb manifestation of Hōitsu’s prestige as a designer. This triad beautifully painted with selected pigments, is one of Hōitsu’s masterpieces, completed when he was 60 years old.”

His adoptive Buddhist name was Monsen Kishin. This denotes the changing winds of his life -from secular to Buddhist. Despite this, the one constant theme throughout his life was art.

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