Japan art and exquisite art of Watanabe Shikō (1683-1755)
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The artist Watanabe Shikō (1683-1755) was born in the cultural city of Kyoto. It remains difficult to patch up many areas of his life during the Edo Period. However, a diary by the esteemed Konoe family mentions his relationship with Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716) and his brother Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743).
His art was admired by the artistic elites of his day. Thus the brothers Kōrin and Kenzan – and their collective circle of friends – will have emboldened and supported Watanabe Shikō in many ways.
The Kyoto National Museum says, “Watanabe Shikō (1683–1755) was a Kyoto artist who first trained in the Chinese-influenced painting style of the Kano school, based in Edo (Tokyo). He then gained exposure to the more decorative, Japanese-influenced Rinpa style by painting hand-decorated ceramics in the workshop of Ogata Kenzan (1663–1743), younger brother of the eponymous Rinpa artist Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716).”
He fused Kano-style art and rinpa (rimpa) to create a distinctive style that appeals greatly to the eye. Also, irrespective of his background, he was known in Imperial circles and was widely respected in his lifetime.
The Met Museum says, “Around 1699 the painter of this small, lyrical landscape helped the legendary Rinpa masters Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716) and his younger brother Kenzan (1663–1743) in their venture into the commercial production of decorated ceramics. Watanabe Shikō, then still a teenager, decorated some of their wares with Kano-style painting. Shikō subsequently created a style of his own, in which he successfully synthesized the academic orthodoxy of the Kano school and the decorative style of Rinpa.”
The mystery of his life – whether genuine connections with being a ronin at one point are true or false – increases the allure of his stunning art.
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