Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Copying the Master and Stealing His Secrets

Copying the Master and Stealing His Secrets: Talent and Training in Japanese Painting

BRENDA G. JORDAN
VICTORIA WESTON
Copyright Date: 2003
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqcj6
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Copying the Master and Stealing His Secrets
    Book Description:

    Copying the Masterexamines the transmission of painting traditions in Japan from one generation to the next. The contributors emphasize the relationship between inborn abilities and those skills taught in the course of learning how to paint. They focus their discussion on a group of painting masters loosely associated with the prestigious Kano painting atelier, Japan's de facto painting academy throughout the Tokugawa period (1615-1868) and into the early modern era. By delving into why, how, and what these painters transmitted to students through their teaching, readers gain insight into artistic and aesthetic sensibilities active in Japanese painting and a fuller appreciation of extant paintings within their cultural and historical contexts.

    Contributors:Frank Chance, Karen M. Gerhart, Brenda G. Jordan, Martha J. McClintock, J. Thomas Rimer, Victoria Weston.

    71 illus., 14 in color

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6200-8
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Brenda G. Jordan
  5. Notes to the Reader
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. An Afterword Posing as a Foreword: SOME COMPARATIVE AND MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS ON TALENT AND TRAINING
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
    J. THOMAS RIMER

    The remarkable collection of essays in this volume is the first of its kind, articulating a sketch map of a territory so far uncharted in Western-language studies of the Japanese traditional visual arts. For many Western art lovers who view and appreciate works created in these traditions, they are often spoken of as though they were somehow disembodied from changes and vagaries of the culture that created them, vaguely above history, eternal. Now, provided as we are with crucial details as to how these works are grounded in time, place, and the training received by the painters involved, we can...

  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    BRENDA G. JORDAN and VICTORIA WESTON

    When asked about his teaching methods in a 1978 interview, thenihongapainter Iwahashi Eien (b. 1903) said, “I don’t teach anything to young people. . . . I think it’s good that I don’t teach anything. I tell them that I was not taught anything by my teacher, and [so] I don’t teach. . . . When I am fed something forcibly, then I feel that it is good at the time but when I look at it later on, nothing is there.” When the interviewer commented that this was a Zen-like approach and modern education spoon-fed students too...

  8. Chapter 1 Talent, Training, and Power: THE KANO PAINTING WORKSHOP IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
    (pp. 9-30)
    KAREN M. GERHART

    The seventeenth-century Kano workshop laid the foundation for an ongoing discourse on talent and training, and it developed artistic methods that proved vital to its continued institutional health. Founded in the fifteenth century, the Kano family of painters flourished due to the political astuteness of their leaders, abundant talent, and outstanding organizational skills.¹ The family system was a patriarchal one, modeled after medieval guilds that passed leadership down through generations of male blood relatives. In the second half of the seventeenth century, a formal school, consisting of multiple lineages of students who studied painting with Kano masters, developed as an...

  9. Chapter 2 Copying from Beginning to End? STUDENT LIFE IN THE KANO SCHOOL
    (pp. 31-59)
    BRENDA G. JORDAN

    As the de facto painting academy of Tokugawa Japan (1615–1868), the Kano school was intent on perpetuating and broadening its influence. By the late seventeenth century, the power and prosperity of high-ranking Kano ateliers in both Kyoto and Edo appeared unassailable. But even with their elite political connections, their position was vulnerable without the obvious: a product made with consistent quality. The Kano institution looked to the training of painting students to ensure consistency in style, sufficient range to satisfy consumers, and quality of execution. Kano Yasunobu’s clear preference forgakuga(paintings produced through learning) overshitsuga(paintings created by innate...

  10. Chapter 3 In the Studio of Painting Study: TRANSMISSION PRACTICES OF TANI BUNCHŌ
    (pp. 60-85)
    FRANK CHANCE

    In the previous chapters, we learned how the Kano family developed into the Kano school, retaining its familial structure even as it built an academic institution. The Kano were by far the most successful academic painters in the history of Japan, and the Kano institutionalization ofgakuga, the notion that excellence in painting depends more on training than on talent, was proving successful, if not always in the manner intended by Yasunobu. One side effect was a continual process of generating offshoots, usually when painters not genetically of the Kano family left the academy, after some months or years of...

  11. Chapter 4 Kawanabe Kyōsai’s Theory and Pedagogy: THE PREEMINENCE OF SHASEI
    (pp. 86-115)
    BRENDA G. JORDAN

    High-ranking Kano painters employedshasei(drawing or painting from life or nature) as a professional tool, but learning the practice ofshaseiwas apparently not conventional Kano student training. As a pupil in the Surugadai atelier, Kawanabe Kyōsai had become fluent with the copybook method, yet like Tani Bunchò and others of his period, he was also open to alternate practices. When Kyōsai became a teacher himself, he made a break with his Kano training by actively encouragingshaseias vital to his students’ learning.¹ His teaching practice and ideas about the practice of painting and woodblock-print design serve as an...

  12. Chapter 5 Okuhara Seiko: A CASE OF FUNPON TRAINING IN LATE EDO LITERATI PAINTING
    (pp. 116-146)
    MARTHA J. MCCLINTOCK and VICTORIA WESTON

    The Kano school must figure in any discussion of the training of Edo-period painters, particularly in regard tofunponand copybook method. Whether the preparatory ground for future Kano school painters or for those who forged independent lineages, Kano pedagogy shaped numerous painters’ understanding of the craft of painting. Yet the act of copying a master’s work was a training method common to many Japanese artistic media. In painting, the use of copying was ultimately based on Chinese practice, and the literati—who worked in a Chinese-derived style—employed copying and copybooks to train painters. Like their Kano counterparts, Japanese...

  13. Color plates
    (pp. None)
  14. Chapter 6 Institutionalizing Talent and the Kano Legacy at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, 1889–1893
    (pp. 147-177)
    VICTORIA WESTON

    What happened when the site for painting education moved from the relatively personal confines of the studio to the institutional setting of the art school? Tani Bunchō and Kawanabe Kyōsai both offered tremendous breadth in the training in their studios, but they were single masters. A school staffed by faculty of diverse stylistic affiliations and offering a formal curriculum is an entirely different proposition. Late-nineteenth-century Japan saw, as part of the nation’s efforts to modernize its technologies and administration, the advent of the art school as a place to train artists in both traditional and foreign media and styles. The...

  15. Epilogue From Technique to Art
    (pp. 178-188)
    BRENDA G. JORDAN

    In the late 1800s, the French Impressionist Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) wrote to a young painter who had asked his advice, “Paint the essential quality, try to convey it by any means whatsoever, without bothering about technique.”¹ Although an excerpt from a letter, this statement reveals an attitude toward technique that was not unusual in the modern era. For many artists of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, technical skill was deemphasized, at times even considered suspect. “As to [Claude] Monet’s former comrades, they witnessed with a certain sadness how his career as an impressionist was ending in technical prowess....

  16. Appendix An Examination of Records PAINTING COMMISSIONS AS DETERMINANTS OF HIERARCHY IN THE EARLY-SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY KANO HOUSE
    (pp. 189-194)
    KAREN M. GERHART
  17. Notes
    (pp. 195-232)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-242)
  19. Contributors
    (pp. 243-244)
  20. Index
    (pp. 245-249)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 250-250)