Japan art and birds: Sakai Hoitsu, Buddhism, and rinpa


Japan art and birds: Sakai Hōitsu, Buddhism, and rinpa

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1829) is one of the most esteemed artists to have graced the Edo Period. His art today continues to inspire – while people who view his art are in awe of the period he belonged to. Therefore, the flow of Buddhism – similar to his graceful art – flowed naturally within his soul.

Ultimately, Hōitsu became a Buddhist monk in the last few decades of his life. At the same time, he taught the beauty of rinpa (rimpa) art to younger artists. Thus his legacy continued after he parted from this world.

In this article, the focus is on birds depicted in such a graceful way by Hōitsu. Art, high culture, nature, poetry, escaping the material world, and the holy scriptures of Buddhism are what made Hōitsu tick. Therefore, depicting the freedom of birds and the power of nature seems natural.

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).

The Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan, says, “Sakai Hōitsu specialized in painting flowers and birds or plants, and pursued rich lyricism and decor aspiring to revive the art of the Rinpa School, showing a unique style.”

In the last decades of Hōitsu’s life, he focused on Buddhism. Hence, one can easily imagine how art, nature, and his Buddhist faith brought him solace and peace.

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