Characteristics of Japanese Art Style


Japanese art has existed for more than 10,000 years having started with simple pottery and evolving into Japanese anime drawings and cartoons. It has been influenced by Chinese art, European art and American culture. Japanese art has had many phases and the characteristics of art have changed drastically over time. Each major period, however, has displayed a characteristic distinct to that time.

Ancient Art

  • Japanese art began in what is known as the Jomon period (8500BC -- 300AD). It began with simple, primitive art in the form of cord-marked pottery designs. During the Jomon period, art progressed to finely decorated clay figures and crystal jewels. From 300AD to the end of the Seventh Century, Japan experienced several other artistic periods including Yayoi and Kofun art forms. These periods produced predominantly sculptures as art forms.

Medieval Art

  • From the 7th to the late 19th Century, Japan entered a new phase in art. The Asuka and Nara, Heian, Kamakura, Muramachi, Azuchi-Momoyama, Edo and Meiji art periods saw the introduction of paintings, ranging from religious to secular styles. During these periods, different styles of art were produced but all had the distinguishing Japanese art characteristics of wabi (stark beauty), sabi (the beauty of natural aging) and yugen (grace and subtlety).

Prewar Period

  • From the early 19th century onward, two schools of Japanese art design took shape. Once of these was heavily influenced by western ideas of art and is known as Yoga style. The other was the polar opposite and aimed to produce art with typical and traditional Japanese features and is known as Nihonga. The Yoga style employed both western methods and materials in its paintings such as oil paintings, watercolors, ink sketches, lithography and etching. Nihonga characteristics include the use of materials such as paints made from natural ingredients such as soot, sea shells, precious stones and corals. The painting techniques of Nihonga are typically achieved by heavy shading and the presence or absence of outlines.

Postwar Period

  • Post World War II Japan saw the introduction of commercial art and especially the beginning of Japanese cartoons. Anime art, a uniquely Japanese artistic characteristic in art, began through the importation of American cartoons in the 1950's and 60's. Japanese cartoon styles can be seen in popular cartoons today such as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. Japanese modern art is heavily inspired by Japans anime tradition. Traditional forms of painting are largely replaced by cartoons including those appearing in in video games. Takashi Murakami, one of Japans most famous modern artists, employs a lot of anime styles in his "superflat" paintings.

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