hakubyou 白描
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Although the term literally means white drawing, hakubyou 白描 is a technique of painting that relies primarily on the use of brushline in monochromatic ink to define form, express movement and capture the essence of the object portrayed. The ink itself is usually black, but occasionally silver or gold is used, and the markedly fine yet taut quality of the line distinguishes hakubyou from ink painting *suibokuga 水墨画, which incorporates broader, fluctuating brushstrokes and shading. This technique was also used in copying finished paintings, or for preparatory sketches or underdrawings. As a finished work, hakubyou rejects color, believed to inhibit the freedom of brushlines. Hakubyou was actually considered to be more expressive than polychrome painting, especially in its use of modulated lines to suggest volume and movements. The technique, believed to have evolved in China sometime during the Warring States period, reflects the Chinese appreciation of monochromatic painting, which most eloquently expresses the purity and power of brushlines. Mentioned in early literature as paihua (Jp: hakuga 白画 or white painting), it was apparently practised by many well-known artists, including Gu Kaizhi (Jp: Ko Gaishi 顧豈之, ca.344-ca.406), whose works in this style no longer exist. The technique was perfected during the Tang dynasty by the great figure painter Wu Daoxuan (Jp: Go Dougen 呉道玄, act. ca. 720-60), whose prowess in the use of powerful and expressive modulated brushstrokes became legendary. The popularity of paihua at this time also reflected the widely-held belief that calligraphy and painting are one and the same. In the second half of the eighth century, the technique's popularity was finally surpassed by that of ink painting, which employs shading and wash to define planes. Later, a Northern Sung dynasty painter, Li Kung-Lin (Jp: Li Kourin 李公麟, ca. 1040-1106), used paihua to its utmost advantage. Still later, in the Yuan dynasty, its popularity revived under the new name of pai miao (Jp: hakubyou). Hakubyou was introduced to Japan some time before the mid-8 century, when it was called soga 素画 (plain painting). A number of examples are found in the *Shousouin 正倉院 imperial repository at Toudaiji 東大寺 in Nara, including small objects decorated in gold or silver ink. Later, in works of Heian period literature like Murasaki Shikibu's diary MURASAKI SHIKIBU NIKKI 紫式部日記 and the EIGA MONOGATARI 栄華物語 Hatsuhana chapter, which chronicles the fortunes of the ruling Fujiwara 藤原 family, the technique was also called sumi-e 墨絵 (black-ink picture). Much later, during the Edo period, some literature such as the KIYUU SHOURAN 嬉遊笑覧 (a collection of essays by Kitamura Nobuyo 喜多村信節, ed. 1830), refers to it as shira-e 白絵 (white picture). Strictly speaking, all these different terms refer to the drawing technique which limits or refrains entirely from the use of shading thus emphasizing the purity and expressive power of the brush lines. It went out of fashion after suibokuga was introduced from China in the late 13c. Japanese hakubyou evolved along two separate paths; the first is represented by all types of preliminary drawings or sketches, and copies of finished paintings such as Buddhist icons. In this technique, brushlines may be modulated and some light colors added, as can be seen in Buddhist drawings made for the study of iconography. This group also includes the scrolls known as the Choujuu Jinbutsu Giga 鳥獣人物戯画 (Folicking Animals and Humans), in the Kouzanji 高山寺 collection in Kyoto, and a group of works known as *nise-e 似絵 (likeness picture), realistic representations of historical personages or animals, and even inanimate objects. In sharp contrast to this group is the second category of works, known as hakubyou yamato-e 白描やまと絵. This consists of finished works, most of which illustrate courtly literature of the Heian period. Among them are handscrolls like the Takafusa-kyou Tsuyakotoba emaki 隆房卿艶詞絵巻 (Lord Takafusa's Love Songs) and Makura no Soushi emaki 枕草子絵巻 (illustrations of Sei Shounagon's 清少納言 Pillow Book). These hakubyou works rely on extremely delicate, unmodulated lines. They occasionally exhibit the palest shades of ink wash and tiny spots in red ink for lips and other small details. Where solid areas of coal-black ink are applied for gentlemen's caps of state or long, flowing hair of the ladies, the technique produces a startling contrast of black and gray, and creates a haunting, dreamlike quality that evokes fantasy and nostalgia toward the halcyon days of the Heian period.


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