fuuzokuga 風俗画
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
 
Paintings with the daily activities and special pleasures of contemporary life as their subject matter. Equivalent to the Western term genre painting, as it is, for example, applied to certain Dutch paintings of the 17c. Representations of everyday life appeared in *yamato-e やまと絵, as early as the Heian period and went on to become a pronounced feature of narrative illustrated handscrolls *emaki 絵巻, of subsequent periods. However, it was not until the late 16c that the literary and seasonal themes which had dominated earlier painting gave way to a new focus on the portrayal of scenes from contemporary life. True fuuzokuga, often termed *kinsei shoki fuuzokuga 近世初期風俗画, or genre painting of the early modern period, was a phenomenon confined to little more than a century of Japanese painting history. By the end of the 17c., it had already been succeeded by the popular *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 form. Among the first Momoyama period works to focus on the life of contemporary people are the folding screens *byoubu 屏風, of "Scenes In and Around the Capital" by Kanou Eitoku 狩野永徳 (1543-90) *Rakuchuu rakugai-zu 洛中洛外図 (Uesugi 上杉 version; ca. 1574). Although a seasonal element is still present in Eitoku's screens, their detailed description of the countless everyday activities of ordinary people in the capital bring these paintings firmly into the realm of pure genre painting. After this initial development, fuuzokuga appears to have undergone three distinct stages. Until about 1620, they were produced primarily by artists of the Kanou school *Kanouha 狩野派, at the request of patrons from Kyoto's aristocratic and warrior families. Mostly large scale works, folding and sliding screens *byoubu-e 屏風絵 and *fusuma-e 襖絵, their subject matter typically consists of lively scenes of picnicking or dancing in outdoor settings, festivals, sporting events, or commemorative scenes of famous battles. Works from this phase include Kanou Naganobu's 狩野長信 (1577-1654) "Merrymaking under Blossoming Trees" Kaka yuuraku-zu 花下遊楽図 (Tokyo National Museum), Kaihou Yuusetsu's 海北友雪 (1598-1677) "Gion Festival" Gion sairei-zu 祇園祭礼図 (Hachimanyama Hozonkai 八幡山保存会, Kyoto), the anonymous "Pictures of Horse Training" *Chouba-zu 調馬図 (Daigoji 醍醐寺, Kyoto) and "Hogen Heiji Battle" Hogen Heiji kassen-zu 保元平治合戦図 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Compositions involving masses of people dispersed among scattered clouds of gold foil reached a new level of sophistication during this period. About 1620, patronage for fuuzokuga shifted away from the aristocratic and warrior classes and Kanou school painters to members of the moneyed merchant class, who commissioned smaller scale works from town painters *machieshi 町絵師. Works from this second, most characteristic phase of fuuzokuga range from representations of the myriad entertainments available to townspeople on the banks of the Kamo 賀茂 River in Kyoto, as seen in "The Scenes of Shijougawara" *Shijjougawara-zu 四条河原図 (Seikadou Bunko 静嘉堂文庫 Art Museum, Tokyo), to scenes of men dallying in the pleasure quarters of that city, such as the Hikone byoubu 彦根屏風 (Ii 井伊 Collection, Shiga prefecture), and decorative assemblages of beautiful women or their garments alone, as seen in paintings on the *tagasode 誰が袖 theme. By the 1660's, the multi-figured compositions of earlier fuuzokuga screens had given way to hanging scrolls *kakemono 掛物, featuring a single, standing beauty, for example. These so-called *kanbun bijin 寛文美人, or beauties of the Kanbun era (1661-72), are the thematic precursors of the depictions of beauties which will become popular in ukiyo-e. As late fuuzokuga became increasingly stereotyped toward the end of the 17c, the audience shifted to Edo, the new seat of popular culture, and turned its interest to the more innovative art of early ukiyo-e. In addition to their considerable artistic interest, fuuzokuga form a valuable source of information about the contemporary manners and customs during the late 16 and 17c, an important transitional period in Japanese history.
 
  

 
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