Sakai Hōitsu and Rimpa Style

Japan Society exhibits the first American retrospective of Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828) until January 6th, 2013. Hōitsu is known for being a unique artist, who was born as a son of the Sakai warrior family in 1761 and became a Buddhist monk at the age of 37 to dedicate his life to art and poetry. Although he was not said to have much interest in Buddhism, becoming a monk gave him a sound reason to stay away from warrior society and concentrate on his art. Hōitsu revived the Rimpa (“school of Korin”) style, which is one of the major historical schools of Japanese painting and established the new Rimpa style in Edo. Hōitsu’s style can be called “Edo Rimpa” style. This exhibition showcases the development of Rimpa by Hōitsu by examining his early drawings that were influenced by his master, Ogata Kōrin, Hōitsu’s original artworks and paintings by Suzuki Kiitsu, Hōitsu’s pupil and successor.

Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828), Maples and Cherry Trees, after 1817. Lent by the John and Celeste Fleming Family, courtesy of the

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Denver Art Museum.

The Rimpa style was started by Tawaraya Sōtatsu and Honami Kōetsu in the 17th century with the support of affluent merchants and aristocratic families who favored this style. It was then developed by Ogata Kōrin, whom Hōitsu’s father was a patron of and Hōitsu followed as his master.

The Rimpa style has several distinguishing characteristics that include taking images from the natural world such as flowers, plants and birds, the use of lavish materials such as gold leaf and depicting subjects from the Heian period when aristocrats had power both in politics and society from the late 8th to the late 12th century.

This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to trace Hōitsu’s art and see how he established the Edo Rimpa style.

In our next article, I will introduce some of the pieces from this exhibition.

Japan Society
 333 East 47th Street New York, NY 10017
$15; students & seniors $12; Japan Society members and children under 16 free. Admission is free to all on Friday nights, 6-9 pm.
Gallery Hours:
Tues.-Thurs. 11 am-6 pm; Fri. 11 am-9 pm; Sat. & Sun. 11 am-5 pm; closed Mon. & major holidays. Docent-led walk-in tours are conducted Tues.-Sun. at 12:30 pm. Japanese language tours are conducted Friday nights at 6 pm. Tours are free with admission and are approximately one hour in duration. To arrange group tours, call (212) 715-1224.