Japan art and Watanabe Shikō (1683-1755): Fusion of ideas
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Information about the artist Watanabe Shikō (1683-1755) is relatively sketchy. However, it is known that he was gifted from an early age. Similarly, he was born in the cultural city of Kyoto during the Edo Period.
Little is known about his early life apart from information in the diary of the esteemed Konoe family and his relationship with Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716) and his brother Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743). Yet, the fact that Watanabe knew the artist Kōrin from a young age points to his early artistic talent.
According to the diary of the Konoe family, it implies that Watanabe was a ronin. However, whether this implies his family background or early way of life remains sketchy.
Ronin implies a samurai without a feudal master to pledge loyalty. Yet it is equally known that Watanabe was working with Kōrin on the commercial side of ceramics from the age of sixteen. Therefore, the jigsaw remains unclear apart from his youthful talent and the linkage of Kyoto.
Intriguingly, Watanabe fused Kano-style art and rinpa (rimpa) to create a distinctive style. Equally, irrespective of his background, he was known in Imperial circles.
Overall, Watanabe was influenced by Kōrin but he was bold enough to fuse different artistic ideas. Thus, while his early life remains extremely sketchy, he leaves behind a legacy based on his art.
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