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Unformatted text preview: Yamato style. Fig. 27 Scene from the Genji Scrolls: Yamato paintings on sliding doors in background; “screen of state” in foreground (Tokugawa Art
Museum, Nagoya, Japan) 86 The Advent of a New Age These early Yamato pictures, which reached their peak of popularity
in the Fujiwara epoch, depicted either pure landscapes or landscapes in
which courtiers were shown at their leisure: viewing the moon, gathering
the first blossoms of spring, or simply standing amid the tranquil beauties
of nature. The two major themes were the seasons and famous places of
It is doubtful, as suggested at the end of Chapter 2, that any other
people in history has ever been as absorbed as the Japanese, in their literature and art, with the seasons and the varying moods they bring. In
works of prose, such as The Tale of Genji, there is a constant awareness of
the seasons and their intimate association with the life cycle of the Heian
courtier; and in waka poetry, we find numerous words and phrases that
stereotypically identify the time of year, such as the “morning mists” of
spring or the “cry of the deer” in autumn. Yamato pictures, as well, came
to have many associative subjects linked with each of the seasons: for
example, the morning glories, lotus ponds, and Kamo festival of summer,
and winter’s mountain villages, waterfowl, and the sacred kagura dance.
A unique feature of the Yamato pictures of famous places was that
they were painted for the most part by people who had never seen these
places, except possibly the ones closest to Kyoto. In other words, the
Yamato artists produced provincial scenes either as they were traditionally supposed to appear or as the artists imagined them to appear. There
could be no more telling proof than this of the extent to which the
Heian courtiers had come to conceive of the world outside Kyoto and its
environs in almost purely abstract, aesthetic terms.
With development of the kana syllabary and the use of kana for the
writing of wak...
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- Spring '13