Japan art and Buddhism: Snow, the Moon, and Cherry Blossoms by Hoitsu

Japan art and Buddhism: Snow, the Moon, and Cherry Blossoms by Hoitsu

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The adorable art represented in “Snow, the Moon, and Cherry Blossoms” by Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1829) is a real treasure. This amazing triptych also highlights the changing nature of Hōitsu’s life. Hence, the three motifs that provide joy in Japan equally are shared by the artistic, philosophical, and ultimately the Buddhist role in the life of Hōitsu.

Indeed, the creation of this masterpiece came during the late stages of Hōitsu’s life. Hence, now being a Buddhist monk, Hōitsu looked at the world in changing ways even if this faith had nourished him for many decades before becoming a Buddhist monk. 

The MOA Museum of Art says, “The snow, the moon and the cherry blossom flowers are the three motifs representing the seasonal pleasures in Japan. Hōitsu composed the triad as one whole unit, thinking of the overall composition when three paintings are juxtaposed. Therefore he placed the snow and pine trees on the top, the moon in the clouds in the middle, and the cherry blossoms at the bottom of each screen. Hōitsu was a painter, poet, and researcher of the Rimpa School, but this work is a superb manifestation of Hōitsu’s prestige as a designer. This triad beautifully painted with selected pigments, is one of Hōitsu’s masterpieces, completed when he was 60 years old.”

The Met Museum says, “Hōitsu, an ardent admirer of the Kyoto artist Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716), strove to transplant the Rinpa aesthetic to Edo. Hōitsu was trained in painting as well as in the literary arts of haikai (seventeen-syllable seasonal verse) and kyōka (thirty-one-syllable witty verse).”

Hōitsu – understanding the importance of aesthetics, space, time, and other areas concerning Buddhism in the settings of Japanese art – creates an inward religious dimension related to his own spiritual changes. Buddhism and art – and other angles of high culture – were fully interwoven within his religious and artistic soul. 

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