Japan Arts Between 876 and 1185
According to Thenailmythology, this era takes its name from the feudal families that for a long time deprived the emperors of any effective power. It was a period of knightly courts, of violent feuds, of lavish luxury, of a type of life and civilization completely different from that of the neighboring continent, while, in 895, Japan was completely detached from China, even breaking diplomatic relations.
Sculpture is increasingly connected with certain names of artists, indeed of families of artists. Thus, Jōchō (died 1057) is already a well-defined personality. Amida Buddha becomes the center of worship. And the Amida of Jōchō, central figure of the Byōdōin temple in Uji, represents the stylistic ideal of the time, in the well-proportioned structure, in the accurate carving work, in the rich gilding, in the smiling and kind expression of the face. There are many works animated by the same spirit, which, fixing the major religious figures in a type which later became canonical, exercised a decisive influence on all subsequent religious art. The drapery and the modeling of the body still retain their expressive function, but no longer have as much stylistic value as in the previous period. In the small sculptures the very naturalistic polychromy is already very important; nor are there examples of caves decorated with representations of the Buddha, the latest Chinese reminiscence. Painting reflects the spirit of the time even more than sculpture. The authors of the religious pictures were generally priests: and there were various schools, including those of Kanaoka or that of Takuma. The Byōdōin temple has the main monuments of painting from this period, in its frescoes. The novelty was the wide use of and there were various schools, among which those of Kanaoka or that of Takuma. The Byōdōin temple has the main monuments of painting from this period, in its frescoes. The novelty was the wide use of and there were various schools, among which those of Kanaoka or that of Takuma. The Byōdōin temple has the main monuments of painting from this period, in its frescoes. The novelty was the wide use ofkirigane, that is, of ornamental gold panels cut out. By a great master, Eshin Sōzu, the museum on Mount Kōva has a large-scale painting.
In this era, painting has purely Japanese characters: elegance and intimate expression are essential qualities, gold and delicate colors make it decorative, a religiousness driven by mystical ecstasy and exquisite refinement are its spirit. The landscape often appears there: and in its cut as a scenario the ancient Chinese tradition still continues. For the first time in the history of Japanese art, profane paintings are found. The fictional literature in vogue in the courts, the priestly legends and the chivalric stories of the Fujiwara age required illustrations. At first simple vignettes inserted in the text, the illustrations eventually become the makimonos, a kind of rolls, of considerable length, to be unwound little by little. With this artistic genre the Tosa school, the Yamato – e, an art of which Japan – as the name implies – has always proudly claimed exclusivity. An example already belonging to the following period shows with sufficient clarity the technical peculiarities. It possesses a perspective that is not, like that of European art, drawn from the direct study of nature, but is of an illustrative nature, intent on highlighting the median plane, the main visual field, towards which all lines converge. both from above and from below. The principle and the background of the perspective field are hidden as much as possible, with clouds or fog, almost spatial wings. You see the inside of the houses as if they were without a roof. For the faces the painter uses a stereotyped form,, lett. “eye = stripe, nose = hook”). The small format of the paintings requires a rich polychromy, with a miniaturist’s finesse. An exception to these canons are the scrolls of the priest Toba Sōjō, who did not have a school, illustrated by watercolor drawings, which ridicule the degeneration of monastic life, presenting the characters in the guise of animals.
Meanwhile, even the minor arts had acquired national characteristics. Lacquer occupies the main place, both in decoration and furnishing. The background was either shiny or golden or plain and black; inlaid with mother of pearl or painted. But already in the century. XII begins to make its way a richer technique that consists above all in disseminating small gold leaves in the dark layer of the lacquer. These works are distinguished from the great Chinese lacquers for their technical multiplicity and for the tendency to figurative representations. Even in metal objects the Japanese taste is affirmed: the mirrors are decorated with elegant zoomorphic or vegetal motifs, and the richly perforated gaskets show the preference of the Japanese for technical perfection.
Architecture finally has some profane luxury and not pure utility buildings which, on the other hand, are connected in the structure to temples and convents.
The most important of all the architectural monuments of this era, the Byōdōin temple in Uji, near Kyōto, was originally intended as a palace. It is said of its complicated plan that it represents a phoenix with open wings. The harmonious proportions, the lightness and elegance of the whole, the absence of a rigid constructive scheme give it an incomparable charm, lacquers, gilding, metal trimmings give the interior a new aspect that is very characteristic for the Fujiwara style. Other examples of this style are found in various temples around Kyōto, for example in Daigoji, Jōruriji and Yakushidō. Shinto architecture is now under the influence of forms derived from Buddhist temples.