Yamamoto Baiitsu (1783–1856)
Landscape with Houses in a
. 1853. Hanging scroll, ink
and light colors on paper. 174 x
61.3 cm. Acquired with the kind
assistance of Carol Brooks and
Prof. James Cahill in honor of
George Schlenker.

Near and Far: Landscapes
by Japanese Artists

Sept. 2 – Dec. 22, 2012

Rotation 1: Imagination of Nature

Landscape painting has a prominent position among the different painting genres in Asia. However, in the beginning, the depiction of landscapes had only played a minor role in Japanese art, and early paintings concentrated on Buddhist topics. From the 12th century onwards, views of nature were used as a backdrop in the depiction of scenes from narratives, such as in the colorful and richly decorated Yamatoe, or Japanese-style images. In the 14th century, along with the popularization of monochrome ink painting in connection to Buddhist subjects, landscapes became an independent motif. These ink landscapes were mostly imagined scenes that showed a romanticized depiction of nature, with artists applying Chinese painting techniques and methods. Landscape painting by Japanese masters, therefore, is often characterized by the contrast of near and far, familiar and foreign, or real and imaginary.

Nakabayashi Chikutō (1776–1853):
Landscape in the Manner of Dong Yuan.
Early 19th cent. Hanging scroll, ink and light
colors on silk. 165.2 x 88.8 cm.

One group of artists who focused on imaginary landscapes was Zen-monk painters, for whom painting was a part of their spiritual training. Others were the so-called "literati" (bunjin): court nobles, samurai, or officials, who painted for their own pleasure without being acquainted with an academic painting school. They were inspired by the literati painting movement (Chin.: wenrenhua), which existed in China since the 11th century. Especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, Japanese literati copied the styles of Chinese masters and created paintings of landscapes which were purely fictitious, like their Chinese models.

Fukuda Kodōjin (1865–
1944): Glowing Pines
and Sailboats
. 1928.
Hanging scroll, ink on
paper. 136.5 x 34 cm.

The Clark Center’s exhibition Near and Far: Landscapes by Japanese Artists, starting September 2nd, 2012, will take a look at the concepts behind the depiction of “real” or “imaginary” landscapes. In two rotations, the exhibition will explore from where the artists drew their inspiration, which motifs in landscape painting were popular and how they were interpreted by the artists.

The first rotation, Imagination of Nature, will focus on works by Japanese painters that feature fictitious landscapes. It introduces to the visitor not only the principles of landscape painting in Japan, but also the concept of creating an ideal landscape and its role within the art of painting. The artworks on display include works by artists of the Edo period (1603–1868) such as Nakabayashi Chikutō (1776–1853) and Yamanaka Shinten’ō (1821–1885), who strove for the depiction of ideal landscapes by emulating the techniques of Chinese masters. Others, such as Fukuda Kodōjin (1865–1944), developed a more expressive style with dramatic compositions and eccentric brushwork.

Curated by Sonja Simonis, Curatorial Assistant.


Gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday 12:30 – 5 pm. Closed on national holidays and during the month of August.
Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for students and active military service with valid ID. Children 12 and under free.
Weekly docent tours are held Saturdays at 1 pm and guided group tours can be arranged by calling the Center in advance at (559) 582-4915.