Japanese arts are fruits of a long and cultivated
tradition that has adopted historical trends and themes from
legends, anecdotes, fantasy, and real life that bring together
both modern and traditional ideas. According to Charlene Aldinger,
the director of public relations at the Honolulu Academy of
Arts, Japanese art is one of the best known Now-European art
forms in the United States.
The gallery shows the Japanese artistic heritage from tomb
sculptures, called haniwa, of the Jomon period, around 2500
B.C., to paintings
of elegant ladies of the Showa period of the 20th century. Mainly,
the various arts are divided according to several principles
of aesthetics. Some of the finest examples of these are based
on the tea ceremony, which features austere refinement and quiet
Tea first came to Japan from China in the Heian period around
the ninth century, but it did not become popular until a Zen
Buddhist priest reintroduced it as part of a tea ceremony near
the end of the Heian period, around the 12th century. The tea
ceremony became popular among Buddhists during meditation periods,
when it was used to help these meditating to stay awake (www.ochakaido.com/index/Society
for the Study of Tea Ceremony).
The full flourishing of the tea ceremony, called chanoyu, occurred
in the Momoyama period (1573-1615) under the auspices of the
renowned tea master Sen no Rikyu. Rikyu perfected a style of
tea drinking known as wabicha. This style of tea grew out of
a medieval aesthetic concept which embraced qualities such as
authority, simplicity, and irregularity in tea utensils.
qualities are embodied in the tea bowls and other utensils
displayed at the gallery.
As chanoyu culture matured, many artists designed various patterns
on the chanoyu utensils. Today, the Academy possesses many
valuable chanoyu objects, many donated by Martin Foulds and
O’Brien, whose collections, both included Shibata Zeshin’s
Undoubtedly a genius, Zeshin (1807-1891), who loved nature,
especially its orientations and details, was a superlative
talent touched on many aspects of Japanese tradition but whose
art fully expresses his own individuality.
Zeshin depicted nature on the chanoyu utensils in affectionate
detail. His favorite forms were persimmons, grapes, ferns,
chrysanthemums, grasshoppers, birds, fishes, and shells, according
and Louise O’Brien in their book, The Art of Shibata Zeshin.
The Zeshin collection stands out even in the distinguished
ensemble of Japanese art at the Academy. The Japan Gallery
is a permanent
exhibit at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. If you haven’t
seen the gallery yet, take a look!