Japanese Landscape

24 09 2010

The compatibility of traditional Japanese and Western Landscape I have discussed before the compatibility of Chinese and baroque landscape. The controlled variation in focus and colour  is common to Eastern and Western forms – the most important parts of the composition in sharper focus and, if it is not monochrome, most intensely coloured. Traditional Japanese landscape is worthy of study too. If anything the variation is even more marked. So much so that I would suggest that any budding landscape artist study these as part of their training, even if eventually they wish to concentrate on the Western form. One of the hardest things to do when painting from nature is to decide which parts are blurred and which in focus so that the end result is a coherent, unified impression. I feel that study of these Eastern forms would help develop this faculty.

This is not a new idea. The landscape painters of the 19th century, such as the Impressionists and others such as the great John Singer Sargent studied Japanese art (especially woodcut prints) and their compositional style was affected by it. If we look at the painting at the bottom by Alfred Sisley, (who came from and English family, but lived in France) example, the hanging boughs that frame the composition and the indication of branches and foliage in the very near foreground is a development in the 19th century that corresponds to the Eastern style of composition.

Other articles describing the principles of baroque landscape here.




4 responses

26 09 2010
Melissa Laurel

Though I have seen many pieces of Asian art – I never noticed the controlled
focus on before! How lovely!

9 10 2010
Father Roger Boucher

Having lived for some time in Japan I had acquired some Asian pieces, notably block prints of Sadao Watanabe (cf. Museum Fine Arts, Boston). Perhaps his liturgical style is mostly didactic and therefore obviates the controlled variation you speak about. However I walked over to a small pottery piece I have of a mounted warrior. There, the hand painted compostion focuses on his tie-back mane and beard; sword and upper arm and sandles, horse-bridle, horses’ hoofs and tail. The remainder of the human body and horses’ form are distinctively focused out. The overall feeling is one of the POWER of the Samurai!
Thanks so much, David, for discussing a style I had always observed but never really understood.

9 10 2010

I would love to see the block prints – I thought I would write a feature about Japanese and Chinese liturgical art sometime!

11 10 2010
Father Roger Boucher

I’ll be glad to bring the prints in!

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