Muromachi Period Essay

This essay has a total of 1781 words and 8 pages.

Muromachi Period

The Muromachi style of Zen Buddhism has influence art and design ever since it's beginning
in the 14th century. Although it was influenced by the Chinese styles at a parallel time,
they both are still influential and noticed in today's world.

For years Japanese Ink Painting continued to be consistent with a basis on nature, and
simplicity. Was the beginning of Minimalism in Japan? Was it intentional? The open
composition of space and content on paper is a key of today's design. The simplicity of
monochromatic work is still appreciated in almost every art form.

This is a contrast to the Renaissance that occurred during the same time period. There was
never work similar in Europe, it was mostly elaborate and colorful. This proves that the
Asian styles are the origin of minimalism.

Even in architecture and landscape, there was interpretation and consistence of nature.
The "Zen Garden" is a key concept that has lasted through the years. The Japanese styles
of architecture were inspired by the consistency and simplicity of nature. They were the
first to incorporate outside and inside, using a lot of patio space, and open surfaces,
using round posts, and hinged translucent walls (Japan, 229).

The dominant styles of the Muromachi Period, Ink Painting, Landscape, and Architecture,
are visible in today's society in all cultures. Design fields incorporate the same
appreciation that the Zen Buddhists did. Aesthetics, the set of principles of good taste
and the appreciation on beauty, especially in the philosophy of art (Reader's, 26).

During the Muromachi Period, Sesshu (1420-1506) was known as the most famous artist in his
medium of Ink Paintings. He was a monk that dedicated his life to painting. He traveled to
areas of China and the natural landscape inspired his work heavily. He denied any
influence from the Chinese art he saw on his journey. Like the work of Ni Zan (1308-1374),
a Chinese Yuan Dynasty ink painter. (History, 842-861)

Sesshu's most noted work was the "Winter Landscape." This painting was done after his
excursion through China, in the 1467. It is 18.25 x 11.5" in size, and was produced by
rushing black ink on a paper. It is overlapped view of a landscape in the foreground, with
large mountainous cliffs as a stable background. The layers provide a depth and point of
view. There is a monk walking a series of steps and paths towards a simple monastery at
the base of the cliffs.

The monochromatic tones, and vivid, thick lines provide a lot of contrast. It uses washed
tints for more texture on the rock surfaces and shadowed areas, and leaves the paper clean
where snow and space are depicted. The planar view divides the foreground, while the jolt
in the cliffs split the entire upper half of the painting. This provides a stability and
balance to the work.

As in most works of this time, he is expressing the simplicity and serenity of the
landscape, which is a parallel to the intended lifestyle of a monk. It is very particular
to their culture in the Zen Buddhism was an important theory of that time. Although, some
aspects of the work might be claimed to have been influenced by the Chinese practices of
the same genre.

Ni Zan , and Yuan painter from China, created the "Rongxi Studio" painting, the most
famous piece of his time. The monochromatic ink painting was very personalized to Ni Zan's
self. He was a very carefree individual. He was very careless in his depiction of his
homeland's natural scenery. Contrary to styles of that time, he was not intending on
satisfying any viewer. He solely wanted to paint, and the brush, ink, and paper were free
in his hands.

The "Rongxi Studio" painting was done in 1372, and is a hanging scroll. Its height is
around 30", and is ink on paper. It depicts a subtle scene of layers in a foggy swampy
landscape, with a hilly area in the background. These layers provide a depth perception to
the piece. It is very loose, and passive. There aren't any intense contrast changes, and
are mostly odd formations of shape representing hills, water, and clouds.

The artist had no intent of satisfying any type of depiction. It is solely a painting of
enjoyment where the scenery was available for inspiration. The artist almost mocks
society, in that he doesn't give them what they are asking for, meaning. Ni Zan's own
intellect and need to be different are the key influences of the work. The work is
successful in that its likeness has been produced over and over again throughout the

Sesshu's ‘Winter Landscape" and Ni Zan's "Rongxi Studio" paintings are very similar in
that they are both monochromatically, layered, landscape paintings. Sesshu uses a lot more
emphasis on his contrast and lines, giving off a more intrusive appeal. There is
definitely expression and meaning behind the "Winter Landscape." Where as Ni Zan had no
concerns nor cared to express anything. This was in direct contrast with what the viewers
wanted. He had a passiveness with his brushstrokes and washes of inks. As if there was no
focal point to the work.

Although, Sesshu may have been influenced by the work of Chinese artisans, such as Ni Zan,
his work is adaptive and unique in his meaning and purpose. It is a very successful piece
and is uniquely presented. Ni Zan set a basis for many artists of this genre to adapt to.
His work achieved his goal of "no goals". He intended for nothing to happen and he was
dead on. His work has almost a pattern aspect to it. Giving no true definition.

Ink Paining is an expressive medium that has been beneficial throughout the ages as a
foreground for minimalism and simplistic theories. It has impacted the world of design and
architecture and will continue to be a basis in these fields.

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