Nihonga 1880 – …

Typically, Nihonga uses traditional water-based pigments, Japanese paper and mounting, unlike Yōga (Western-style) painting, which uses oils on canvas The case for Nihonga and for the painting of contemporary Kanō-school artists was led by Ernest Francisco Fenollosa, invited from the United States to teach at Tokyo Imperial University, and his best-known student, Tenshin Okakura

Nihonga (日本画, “Japanese-style paintings”) are paintings that have been made in accordance with traditional Japanese artistic conventions, techniques and materials While based on traditions over a thousand years old, the term was coined in the Meiji period of Imperial Japan, to distinguish such works from Western-style paintings, or Yōga (洋画)

he impetus for reinvigorating traditional painting by developing a more modern Japanese style came largely from many artist/educators, which included; Shiokawa Bunrin, Kōno Bairei, Tomioka Tessai, and art critics Okakura Tenshin and Ernest Fenollosa who attempted to combat Meiji Japan’s infatuation with Western culture by emphasizing to the Japanese the importance and beauty of native Japanese traditional arts These two men played important roles in developing the curricula at major art schools, and actively encouraged and patronized artists

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Contemporary Nihonga has been the mainstay of New York’s Dillon Gallery Key artists from the “golden age of post war Nihonga” from 1985 to 1993 based at Tokyo University of the Arts have produced global artists whose training in Nihonga has served as a foundation Takashi Murakami, Hiroshi Senju, Norihiko Saito, Chen Wenguang, Keizaburo Okamura and Makoto Fujimura are the leading artists exhibiting globally, all coming out of the distinguished Doctorate level curriculum at Tokyo University of the Arts Most of these artists are represented by Dillon Gallery

Nihonga are typically executed on washi (Japanese paper) or eginu (silk), using brushes The paintings can be either monochrome or polychrome If monochrome, typically sumi (Chinese ink) made from soot mixed with a glue from fishbone or animal hide is used If polychrome, the pigments are derived from natural ingredients: minerals, shells, corals, and even semi-precious stones like malachite, azurite and cinnabar The raw materials are powdered into 16 gradations from fine to sandy grain textures A hide glue solution, called nikawa, is used as a binder for these powdered pigments In both cases, water is used; hence nihonga is actually a water-based medium Gofun (powdered calcium carbonate that is made from cured oyster, clam or scallop shells) is an important material used in nihonga Different kinds of gofun are utilized as a ground, for under-painting, and as a fine white top color

Initially, nihonga were produced for hanging scrolls (kakemono), hand scrolls (emakimono), sliding doors (fusuma) or folding screens (byōbu) However, most are now produced on paper stretched onto wood panels, suitable for framing Nihonga paintings do not need to be put under glass They are archival for thousands of years

In monochrome Nihonga, the technique depends on the modulation of ink tones from darker through lighter to obtain a variety of shadings from near white, through grey tones to black and occasionally into greenish tones to represent trees, water, mountains or foliage In polychrome Nihonga, great emphasis is placed on the presence or absence of outlines; typically outlines are not used for depictions of birds or plants Occasionally, washes and layering of pigments are used to provide contrasting effects, and even more occasionally, gold or silver leaf may also be incorporated into the painting