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【Culture】Rimpa school of Japanese painting marks its 400th anniversary2015.08.28

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Rimpa is one of the major schools of Japanese painting and applied arts. It also refers to a group of Japanese artists who established a highly decorative style of paintings, ceramics, textiles and lacquerware from the Edo Period to the modern times. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the school since Hon’ami Koetsu (1558-1637), one of its founders, set up in 1615 Koetsu Art Village, a community of craftsmen, in Takagamine, north of Kyoto.

Rimpa has a long history but the term was created by someone affiliated with art history in the early 20th century. The term, also spelled “Rinpa,” derived from the name of Ogata Korin (1658-1716), a renowned Japanese decorator and painter. “Pa” means “a school.” Korin applied his bold and decorative designs for not only large folding screens but also kimono textiles, lacquerware, ceramics and paper fans.

Unlike other schools of Japanese painting, Rimpa is not based on an apprentice system. The style was not passed on from masters to pupils. Instead, the artists personally took the predecessors as a model and followed their artistic styles. The fine example of this is the folding screen painting of the Wind God and Thunder God. It is a masterpiece of Tawaraya Sotatsu who is also regarded as the founder of Rimpa. The painting, a National Treasure, was copied by Ogata Korin. Then, Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1829) copied the painting by Korin, not the original one by Sotatsu.

Works of the Rimpa artists are varied, but there are some characteristics. They include bold picture compositions, the use of gold and silver leaves in the background, repetitions of paper stencil patterns and a shading technique of forming layers of partially dried pigments.

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