Irises | Ogata Korin | 1702

Irises | Ogata Korin | 1702

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.

Ogata Korin | Yatsuhashi

Ogata Korin | Yatsuhashi

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”).

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~ by Álvaro Mazzino on July 27, 2010.

6 Responses to “Irises | Ogata Korin | 1702”

  1. […] Both artists will associate to create works of art that combine the disciplines of Japanese calligraphy and painting. They will illustrate classic poems and, for 15 years, they will produce countless works of art. Sotatsu and Koetsu will become the germ of the Rimpa art school, which will be consolidated by Ogata Korin. […]

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  6. my lengthy time studying contemporary art (mostly American since 1940, including the Europeans that informed the early NY school – DaDa and surrealism) began with a non-western art history course that started with Japan and went back in time through to China and then India. Japan was remarkable for many reasons and I often consider redirecting my studies that way, but I would have to learn the language (a different way of writing all together – that probably makes so much more sense if you are fluent in both, but the difficulty … ughhh) at this point which is probably what stops me.
    Korin’s Irises had a technical aspect of “repetitive motif” which the professor claimed was the first known use of the technique. It is said that he was from wealthy parents and could often rely on their contemporaries to fund his painting through commissions, but he did spend much time painting screens to make ends meet, which makes a lot of sense with this technique since he did not have to continually come up with new and exhaustive forms to paint himself out of ideas with. It’s a tip of the hat to Walter Benjamin and Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction, although not so mechanical, just in reproduction … the woodblock printing that came many years before the west had such technology would be a better rep for that imo.
    I’ve never seen Korin’s work in person – I had a near opportunity, but missed it. Maybe some day …

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