The Mountain Path at Utsu and the Autumn Festival were both created during the Edo period, which lasted from 1615 to 1868 C. E. During this time period, the capital shifted from Kyoto to Edo, or today’s modern Tokyo. The Edo period also represents a movement in society away from a strict hierarchical system, where the samurai class held less influence on the arts. Instead, the artisans and merchants “were free to reap the economic and social benefits of this prosperous age. ” Since, there was no ongoing war in Japan, the samurai class could only fill certain jobs, this let the middle class citizens gain more wealth than the samurais.
This time also marked a shift away from outside influence, as it was isolated in 1638 C. E. from foreigners entering Japan. This allowed Japan to create its own style in the Rimpa school, while also reviving past literati traditions from the Chinese Southern School. One can recognize this shift of focus in Japan through Fukae Roshu and Ike Tiaga’s screens. Following these two stylistic traditions, one can determine that these two screens were common in the Edo period through their subject matter focusing around poems, composition, stylistic techniques, and their overall expressive visual qualities.
These two screens emulate two different stylistic traditions in Japan that flourished during the Edo period. The Mountain Path at Utsu represents a more native style in Japan. Fukae Roshu studied from Rimpa school masters such as Sotatsu and Korin. Korin was known for his “overconspicuous display of wealth when at a party he wrote poems on gold leaf and floated them down a stream in emulation of legendary poets’ gatherings in Tang China. ” Roshu includes this aspect in his screen, as he ultilizes gold leafing in the background.
In this time period, gold leafing was esential, “because it reflects light, brightened the dark castle rooms, used as background, it also outlined painted forms dramatically. ” Korin would also paint more carefully, emphasizing the outline of his figures and objects and applying color evenly. Roshu, however, is described as having a radical approach to this native style, because he incorporates unusual color harmonies in his flat landscape.
Rimpa style is normally defined as having a “reduction of landscape to a few simple, abstract elements; emphasis on sensuous curving forms, defined in color rather than outline and use of the technique known as tarashikomi, in which ink or pigment is pooled on an already wet surface. ” This allows for a more decorative style using silhousettes. Ike Taiga’s Aumtumn Festival screen differs, as it was painted in the Nanga school. The Nanga school followed literati traditions where one would “exaggerate the elements of Chinese wen ren painting, not only in composition but in brushwork, and added a strong sense of humor. The Nanga school took its influence from Chinese themes and Chinese-inspired brush techniques. A famous scholar official who painted in the literati tradition is often quoted as saying, “if anyone discusses painting in terms of formal likeness, his understanding is close to that of a child. ” Instead, painters looked for the ideal form, and would purposely de-skill their painting technique in order to reach a higher understanding in a painting. One could characterize their painting style through axe cut texture strokes on rocks, bent trees, and an overall misty atmosphere.
Both screens take their subject matter from poems. The Mountain Path at Utsu, for instance, was based after The Tales of Ise poem from chapter nine, which states, “Beside Mount Utsu / In Suruga / I can see you / Neither waking / Nor, alas, even in my dreams. ” The main character in The Tales of Ise is a courtier, who has been having difficulty finding love, and is exiled to the eastern provinces. An individual can understand why Roshu would have picked this subject, as he was expelled from the capital from his father’s crime of bribery and fraud in the government mint.
One can see this theme in the Mountain Path at Utsu, as a man “encounters a Buddhist monk travelling in the opposite direction. He asks the monk to deliver this poem to a woman he left behind in the capital. ” Other than the Buddhist monk walking into the distance, the man is alone among nature to contemplate his thoughts. Although this poem was not included on this screen, one can recognize Mount Utsu through large mounds that grow into one another. Tiaga, however, incorporated the poem he based Autumn Festival in the center of his screen.
He took his subject matter from a Tang dynasty poet, Wang Jia who wrote, “At the foot of Ohu-shan, rice and millet are ripe, / Pigs are in their pens, chickens in their coops, / and the door to the house is half-ajar. / In the evening, the mulberry leaves cast long shadows, / and the Autumn Festival is now over. / To every household, its man comes home tipsy on his feet. ” The Autumn Festival South China was dedicated to the local gods, and would normally occur around August eighth. Following the literati tradition, one can see why Taiga would include this Chinese subject for his six-fold screen.
This theme was fairly popular as well, as many nanga artists incorporated it. Tiaga represents this poem’s sense of leisure, as he depicts men fishing, while other individuals sit in a teahouse with the door open, and Tiaga shows one man walking away from the teahouse with a child on a nearby bridge. This screen contrasts with the poem, however, as Tiaga did not represent any animals, and there is no shadows from the trees. While these two screens come from different schools of thought in Japan, both artists divided their compositions into two parts.
Roshu divided his two-fold screen along the crack. This essentially divides the man from the traveling Buddhist monk, and creates a deeper sense of isolation. The two mounds of the mountain are also separated from this division of space. Tiaga separates his six-fold screen, however, not in the center but between the fourth and fifth fold from the left of the screen. In this screen, a large body of water acts as barrier between the teahouse and the misty mountains on the right side of the screen. This partitioning of the space is emphasized by the poem placed above.
All of the objects in the painting are compositionally close as well. The Mountain Path at Utsu contrasts this thought as there is little overlapping among objects in the screen. Roshu also lacks perspective in his screen. All of his trees and flowers appear to be the same size. The two figures in the screen seem to be the same size as well. The mountain acts as the only division of space between the foreground and the background. The gold leafing complicates the piece as well, because it serves the purpose of both the sky and ground.
Tiaga, on the other hand, does include a sense of perspective with his misty atmospheric perspective for mountains farther away. Similar to Roshu, however, Tiaga does not differienciate between the sizes of fauna in his screen, as the tree beside the teahouse is the same size as those on the far off hill. From these two different schools, Roshu and Tiaga practice different techniques in the application of paint for these two screens. For instance, the Mountain Path at Utsu takes on a less realistic depiction of objects on the screen.
Instead, all of the forms displaying nature are softened and rounded with no clear outline in a more decorative manner. Color takes the precedence in this screen over contour lines. Roshu ultilized a technique called tarashikomi, which ink is applied to an already wet surface. One can see this applied with the two-toned pink flowers on the mountains, and along the hilly mountains, as paint seems to drip down. This technique creates a smudge-like area on the screen, which is similar to using ink washes to tone down an area in a painting.
Tiaga, however, follows the literati tradition, which focuses on brush strokes. For instance, Tiaga is often described as emphasizing ” brush-dotted textures, and a rolling, rollicking rhythm runs through nearly all of his pictures, implying an extroverted good humor. ” One can see these dotted textures in the foliage along the mountains and the leaves in the trees. Unlike more traditional literati painting that would have been in monochrome, Tiaga introduces “occasional dots of darker and wetter ink, and small areas touched with ruby red and emerald green colors, enliven this otherwise dry, airy landscape.
These harsh lines demonstrate the autumn season to serve a decorative purpose. These different techniques and styles allow a viewer certain visual impacts for these two screens. The Mountain Path at Utsu seems very bright through its use of color. If one had no knowledge of the poem this screen was based off of, when would assume that the subject would be happy even though it tells a tale of isolation. The Autumn Festival differs, as the poem is directly connected to the screen through calligraphy.
Color on the Mountain Path at Utsu, however, catches a viewers attention. I can see how these gold screens would have been placed in castles to brighten up a room. The Autumn Festival, however uses more muted tones and resembles monochrome hand scrolls. The focus on the Mountain Path at Utsu also seems to be on the man dressed in blue, as that color is not used anywhere else in the screen. The Autumn Festival, on the other hand, appears more naturalistic by comparison, even if it does display stylistic qualities like the mist in the background.
It presents more of a scenic view, as the mountain acts as the central theme of painting through its large size compared to the people. Roshu also utilizes more simple forms, so one would think it would be hard for viewers to enjoy this piece unless they knew that this was a deliberate step by the painter. Tiaga showcases his skill in creating different textures, which makes a viewer want to look closer and examine the screen. While these two screens come from different schools of thought in Japan, they include both similarities and differences. For inspiration, both folding screens were based off of a poem.
There is also a large incorporation of nature in these two screens as a framing device between the main subject, as the screens are divided into two parts. These two pieces do differ, however, in the different techniques that the artists used. While Roshu has an emphasis on color and simple forms, Tiaga includes more naturalistic forms through his axe cut texture strokes on the mountains and his quick brushstrokes and dots to form natural elements in the screen. Although these two screens come from different traditions in Japan, one can recognize how they were common in their time period to serve an overall decorative purpose.