Theses Doctoral

Style, Space and Meaning in the Large-Scale Landscape Paintings of Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795)

Bartel, Jens

This thesis centers on groups of landscape paintings on sliding doors and wall panels for temples in and around Kyoto by the painter Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795), dating to the latter half of the eighteenth century. I discuss Snow Landscape of the Chiba City Museum of Art, presumed to have been painted for the temple Enman’in in Ōtsu (Shiga Prefecture), and the former sliding door and wall paintings of Kiun’in, a subtemple of Nanzenji in Kyoto, now in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum. The analysis is embedded into considerations of underlying genre principles in Ōkyo’s art, the reflection on the relevance of “truthfulness to nature” (shasei) and considerations of how his works relate to established painting conventions in early modern Japan. I attempt to frame Ōkyo’s landscapes as an expression of the painter’s Chinese-inspired outlook on painting.
Chapter One centers on Snow Landscape. I use stylistic comparison to argue that the paintings do not match other ink landscapes by Ōkyo of the so-called Enman’in period, but resemble closely another set of sliding doors paintings of similar subject matter at Shōkokuji, dated 1790. Snow Landscape can be understood as part of a small group of Ōkyo works that are thematically and formally related, and that all share obscure provenance and previously unaddressed questions of authorship. This includes sliding door paintings of the temple Daijōji (Hyōgo Prefecture), of Nishi Honganji and of the former Hara collection of Toyooka, all of them with their current whereabouts unknown. In Chapter Two, I provide a detailed reconstruction of the original temple spaces based on the features of the extant paintings, then proceed to disentangle the modalities of Ōkyo’s workshop production as the context from which the Kiun’in paintings likely originated. Comparison of large-scale landscape paintings reveals that much of Ōkyo’s approach relied on reuse of complete compositions, or at least, individual motifs. I argue that the Kiun’in paintings were possibly painted by disciples.
Chapter Three provides glimpses on primary source material written during Ōkyo’s lifetime by his most important patrons: Banshi (1761-1773) by Prince Abbot Yūjō, the diary Onjiki nikki (1787) by Imperial Prince Shinnin and the records of the temple Myōhōin, Myōhōin hinamiki. I argue that little in Banshi allows to conceive of Ōkyo’s art as “modern;” rather, the documents character is shaped by Yūjō’s interest in technical matters of studio painting. Yūjō and Shinnin are connected through familial ties at the court; in addition, attendance data from the Myōhōin hinamiki foreshadows the later rift into a Maruyama school and a Shijō school after Ōkyo’s death. Chapter Four provides a concluding discussion of the significance and context of Ōkyo’s landscape paintings in Buddhist temples. I argue that Ōkyo’s multi-room ensembles for temple interiors are based on artistic convention and spatial hierarchies that are comparable to approaches of the Kano school, and suggest that response to nature, such as allusion to topographical surroundings of a building, usually played a subordinate role. Ōkyo’s art depended on the appreciation of ancient Chinese culture, and closely related to the intellectual outlook of the court of Emperor Kōkaku.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
McKelway, Matthew Philip
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 10, 2018