Painters and Printers

Early art in Japan, especially religious art, was influenced by Chinese art. In the Edo period (1600-1868), Japanese art turned to secular subjects.  Japan was able to develop its own styles because it was closed off from most outside influence, apart from limited trading with the Dutch and Chinese.  Edo period art did not use perspective the way that Western art did and it was often colourful and decorative.  The bold lines and composition of ukiyo-e prints had a big influence on Western art from the 1860s onwards. This influence can be seen in the work of several Scottish artists including Glaswegian Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), George Henry (1858-1943), from Ayrshire, and Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933).  Hornel's work can be seen in Broughton House, his former home, in nearby Kirkcudbright.


The Kanō school was patronised by the shōgun, the military rulers, and dominated Japanese painting from the late fifteenth until the late nineteenth century.  The Kanō school was influenced by Zen Buddhist ink painting but depicted secular subjects.  As well as painting landscapes in black ink on silk, Kanō painters, by adding bright colours and gold foil to bold brushwork, developed their own style.  This type of art was favoured by the wealthy.



The Tosa school was founded in the early fifteenth century, and Tosa artists were the official painters to the Imperial court.  Tosa artists painted classical subjects including scenes from Genji, a famous eleventh century novel set in the court.  They worked in the yamato-e style, which used Japanese techniques and subjects, as opposed to Chinese, and their use of bright colours is said to have influenced Kanō painters.



Ukiyo-e were woodblock prints that illustrated  beautiful people, including courtesans, actors, teahouse waitresses, and sumo wrestlers; landscapes, especially famous places; warriors, and figures from history, myth and legends.  In the early seventeenth century, ukiyo-e images were printed in black with one or two colours occasionally added either by hand or printed.  From the 1670s onwards they were printed in full colour.  Ukiyo-e were a popular art form that was affordable for townspeople.

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