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Friday, October 23, 2015

Mihata Joryu - Japanese Artist - Updated

I guess I have fallen under the evil spell of westernized stereotypification (I'm sure I just created a word) of Japan when it comes to Japanese artwork, specifically painting.

I am unsure why, but I assumed (I know what it means - I'm a Seinfeld fan) that the scope of Japanese art  prior to it opening up its doors to western expansionism, er, economy and trade, that Japanese art pretty much consisted of: ukiyo-e, scrolls, graffiti (Kilroy was here - more on that tomorrow!), and perhaps some of that sumi-e (ink brush style), and shodo (calligraphy). 

Basically, I didn't really consider that the Japanese might be doing painting in the style of water or oils.

In my defense, if was done prior to 1850s, it is not exactly celebrated by Japan in the same manner it celebrates artists in the dreaming world of ukiyo-e.

Heck… even Japan didn't really celebrate ukiyo-e until foreigners looked at it and began collecting it thinking it was supercool.

Maybe the Japanese didn't collect things back then, and only kept things that were useful to their wa (harmony) or for everyday physical use?

Anyhow… on Thursday I was on one website about some topic or another, and then I saw a phrase that made me look up another topic or another, and several subject searches later I discovered the artist  (and here I am assuming this is surname first - I could be wrong and would welcome clarification) Mihata Joryu (surname first).

The first piece I looked at was a scroll, made of colored inks on silk… so pretty much exactly like what I would have expected… scrolls.

What intrigued me about his art, was that he made his subjects look like different people… there was a lack of homogeneity about it… that one fatal flaw of early Japanese artwork as represented by ukiyo-e.

I don't have a lot of experience with Japanese scrolls… I own one, but its subject matter relates to Boys day and kites and carps and dragons… You can see what the heck I am talking about HERE:

Bijin with dragon obi - by Mihata Joryu.

But look at the women here… there's blush in the cheeks… something ukiyo-e artists can seem to pull off… these women have skin tones (plural)… they now have a realistic appearance about them… they look less stylized and now more accessibly human.

Now perhaps there are hundreds of such Japanese artists out there who did this in pre-1850s Japan. I've not come across them, but I'm more of a Jack of all Trades rather than a Master of One, and I prefer that.

So I decided to look up Mihata, and can you guess what I found? Not effing much.

His work appears to be very well respected in western art circles… but perhaps because I don't know the kanji (Chinese-like characters) for his name, and even if I did and could access Japanese websites, I wouldn't be able to read it without the use of Google Translate, which doesn't translate Japanese well enough except to barely give me the gist of things.

So… when was her born? I don't know. He was born in Kyoto… and apparently studies painting under master Toyohiko Okamoto (surname first), who was born in 1773, dying in 1845.

According to what I could glean from the line or two accompanying various paintings, was that Mihata specialized in a ukiyo-e style (oh - here's comes Andrew's stereotypification again! - which  now seems viable and justified)…
Beauty Cooling Off With A Fan - by Mihata Joryu.
He painted genre scene and bijon (Visions… of beauty - women, dude)… all of which was influenced by his Shijo Art School scroll training. Oh, yeah… I got your stereotypification right here.

And that's all I have.

If anyone out there has some real information on Mihata Joryu, let me know.

In the meantime, we can at least enjoy some of his work which is technically so good that if one didn't know better, thanks to his sense of proportion and scale, we might think it to be modern art.

By the way… I've often heard people complain about Japanese artists, and how they lacked perspective in their works.

Here's a typical flat painting from the U.S. in the 1800s.
Mrs. Kendall, attributed to Ruth Henshaw Bascom, American, 1772-1848, about 1831, Pastel, black paint, and graphite on cut paper attached to blue paper.

Compare it to say something from a 1600s artist like Rembrandt or any of the other Dutch masters.

Portrait of Johannes Wtenbogaert - Rembrandt - 1633.
I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. I do appreciate art, however. I have some 30 pieces of original oils I have accumulated along the way - not to mention all those comic books and ukiyo-e and tobacco cards.

And I do like the art stylings of Mihata Joryu.... even though I'm pretty sure I never once came across a Japanese woman with a nose drawn in the typical Japanese nose-drawing style, as I've come across a lot of Japanese noses in my day. Wait... is that what I meant to write?  Aw, nevermind.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Sorry - I accidentally posted this story without actually finishing. I realized this some 8 minutes later and finished now, 10 minutes after that. D'uh.

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