Irises | Ogata Korin | 1702
I’ve always admired the japanese. I’m fascinated by their culture, their simplicity, their relationship with nature and their constant tendency towards minimalism; whether it is in architecture, in their tales, in their poems and their philosophy.
Today’s painting express everything I like about them.
Ogata Korin is considered today as one of the most influential painters of all Japan. Son of wealthy parents, he worked with them in the proper family business of fabric-painting; and they had, as clients, women from the upper class of Kyoto, home of Korin’s family.
However, suddenly, the clientele declined and Ogata and his brother had to start painting folding screens to subsist.
Today’s work is based in the story of a Japanese literature classic of the 10th century called Ise Monogatari, or The tales of Ise. In it, we read the story of the aristocrat Nahira, banished from Kyoto to the Eastern provinces who, In the road, comes across a bridge called Yatsuhashi. In there, he sees the blossom of the irises which cause him an unfathomable nostalgia for leaving behind his friends in the capital city.
It is believed that this story affected Korin deeply, as he painted it several times. However, Irises is the only one where the artist focused only in those flowers, dispensing from other references of the story of Nahira, such as the bridge (example we see at right).
We don’t see a great display of virtuosity and technique by Korin but, does it really matter? They are just irises. And they cause us things inside precisely because of their simplicity and beauty, just like they did to Nahira.
Korin’s influence was decisive in Japan because he fused the 17th century Tawaraya Sotatsu’s decorative style of with the great painting masters of the Muromachi period, resulting in the Rinpa decorative style; named after Korin (Rin after “Korin” and Pa is the word for “school”).