Japan art and Watanabe Shiko: Kano and Rinpa art

Japan art and Watanabe Shikō: Kano and Rinpa art

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Watanabe Shikō (1683-1755) produced many stunning art pieces during the eighteenth century in Japan. Yet, aspects of his life remain extremely sketchy and difficult to put together. Despite this, his legacy remains potent today in modern Japan among art lovers and much further afield.

He drew the attention of many people from a very young age. Also, the cultural city of Kyoto – and places including Koyasan and Nara impacted religiously and culturally in this part of Japan. Therefore, the trappings of high culture fused naturally with his emerging artistic talent. 

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.

Shikō is connected to the esteemed Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716) and his brother Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743) by a diary left behind by the Konoe family. Hence, when still a teenager, Watanabe was already helping Kōrin and Kenzan.

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).”

It is known that Shikō influenced many Kyoto artists – either born or based. For example, the esteemed Maruyama Ōkyo (1733–1795).

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