Art History Essay

Topics: Nature, Taoism, Azuchi-Momoyama period Pages: 4 (657 words) Published: May 8, 2014

An Escapist’s Painting
Jerry Chiang
Tiffany Thurman
Plano Senior High School

The Azuchi-Momoyama Period in Japanese history came at the end of the Warring States Period. It marked new beginnings of political unification and looked to steer away from the chaos of the previous period. To that end, the Momoyama elite sought to solidify their position through patronage of the arts since it suggested the sophistication that was a far cry from the disorderly Warring States period.1 It was also during this time that the Japanese artists looked to nature as to retire from the chaos inspired by reality. Taoist philosophy took hold as the concept of escaping into the natural world from the chaos of daily life gained popularity, and the art of the period followed.

The Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup in particular exemplify the unique escapist attitude of the Momoyama period. As with all Taoists artworks, the natural world is focus of the screens; even though the hsien, or immortals, appear to be in a very indoors environment, the entire scene itself is out in the natural world.2 It is reflective of the escapist attitude of the Momoyama period where the Taoists would look to the natural world to escape from the chaos of reality, such as in the case of the screens where the immortals attempt to leave the interior spaces of their drinking party to the surrounding landscape. Likewise, the immortals, themselves also symbolized spirituality and escape from the chaos of reality.3 The immortals also communicate a connection between mankind and the natural world. That the immortals sought to abandon everyday life and achieve true enlightenment, but that they choose to envelope themselves in the natural world is the artist telling the viewer that transcendentalism is achieved by a concentration on nature. By being drunk, the immortals are also very “pure” according to Taoist philosophy and the artist depicts them harmonically...

Bibliography: Pitman, Bonnie. Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2012.
Hickman, Money L. Japan’s Golden Age: Momoyama. New Haven: Yale UP in Association with Sun & Star 1996 and Dallas Museum of Art, 1996.
Murase, Miyeko. Turning Point: Decorative Arts in Momoyama Japan. New Haven: Yale UP, 2003.
Murase, Miyeko. Masterpieces of Japanese Screen Painting: The American Collections. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. Publishers, 1990.
Doi, Tsugiyoshi. Momoyama Decorative Painting. New York: Weatherhill, 1977.
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