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Rimpa (A School of Japanese Art)

Updated on October 7, 2014


Rimpa (or Rinpa) is one of the major historical schools of Japanese Painting. The school is traced back to 17th century and credits Ho'ami Koetsu and Soutatsu but Rimpa is the product of Ogata Korin.

The name Rimpa comes from Korin's name and the character "pa" meaning school.

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Autumn Flowers and Moon by Sakai Hoitsu
Autumn Flowers and Moon by Sakai Hoitsu

History of Rimpa

Hon'ami Koetsu founded an artistic community of craftsmen supported by wealthy merchant patrons of the Nichiren Buddhist sect in Kyoto in 1615. Both the wealthy merchant class and the old Kyoto aristocracy favored arts that followed classical traditions, thus Koetsu made numerous works of ceramics, calligraphy and lacquerware.

Tawaraya Sotatsu, Koetsu's collaborator, maintained workshop in Kyoto and produced commercial paintings like decorative fans and folding screens. He also specialized in making decorated paper with gold or silver backgrounds, Koetsu then added calligraphy to these pieces.

Both artists came from families of great importance; Koetsu came from a family of swordsmiths who had served the imperial court and the great warlords, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the Ashikaga Shoguns. Koetsu's father evaluated swords for the Maeda clan, as did Koetsu himself. However, Koetsu was less concerned with swords and favored painting, calligraphy, lacquerwork, and the Japanese tea ceremony. His own painting style was flamboyant, like the aristocratic style of the Heian period (794 to 1185).

Sotatsu also pursued the classical Yamato-e genre as Koetsu, but pioneered a new technique with bold outlines and striking color schemes. One his most famous works are the folding screens "Wind and Thunder Gods.

The Rimpa school fell into neglect in the early Edo period, but was revived in the Genroku era (1688-1704) by Ogata Korin and his younger brother Ogata Kenzan, sons of a prosperous Kyoto textile merchant. Korin's innovation was to depict nature as an abstract using numerous color and hue gradations, and mixing colors on the surface to achieve eccentric effects, as well as liberal use of precious substances like gold and pearl.

Rimpa was revived in 19th century Edo by Sakai Hoitsu, a Kanto school artist whose family had been one of Ogata Korin's sponsors. Sakai published a series of 100 woodcut prints based on paintings by Korin, and his painting "Summer and Autumn Grasses".

Iris by Ogata Korin
Iris by Ogata Korin

Rimpa Style

Rimpa follow three stylistic themes;

- The continuation and reworking of Soutatsu's

- Classic Literaure like the Tale of Genji, the Tale of Ise and poetry by 36 of the great poets

- Standard yamato-e theme meaning depicting birds, flower and the four seasons

Rimpa is distinguished by its lavish and bright colors and gold and silver. It's also know for extravagant and flamboyant nature. Precious stone are used in the bright color and gold and silver leaf. Rimpa was loved by the Chounin class, the merchant class. Rimpa was used in wall hangings, folding screen, ceramics and lacquer.

Wind and Thunder Gods by Sotatsu
Wind and Thunder Gods by Sotatsu

Famous Rimpa Art Pieces and where you can see them

Seeing the actual piece is part of the fun. Where you can see some of the most Famous Rimpa pieces?

- "Wind and Thunder Gods" by Sotatsu at Freer Gallery Washington D.C

- "Red and White Plum Trees" by Ogata Korin at Museum of Art in Atami, Shizuoka

- "Iris" by Ogata Korin at the Metropolition Museum of Art New York

- "Inr with design of sea foam" by Shibata Zeshin based off a design by Ogata Korin at the Metropolition Museum of Art New York

- "Rough Waves" Ogata Korin at the Metropolition Museum of Art New York

- "Cosmetic Box with Fan-shaped Paintings" by Ogata Korin at The Museum Yamato Bunkakan, Nara

- "Water Birds in Lotus Pond" by Tawaraya Sotatsu at Kyoto National Museum ( this painting is considered a National Treasure of Japan)

- "Cranes" By Suzuki Kiitsu at Feinberg Collection, USA

- "Lidded Vessel Pines and waves design in underglaze blue with gold and silver decoration " by Ogata Kenzan at Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo

- "Summer and Autumn Grasses" by Sakai Hoitsu at Tokyo National Museum

- "Amagumo" by Hon'ami Koetsu at Mitsui Memorial Museum, Tokyo

- "Autumn Flowers and Moon" by Sakai Hoitsu at Tokyo National Museum

- "White Camellias and Autum Grasses" a pair by Suzuki Kiitsu at Freer Gallery Washington D.C

Rimpa poll

Spring Landscape by unknown
Spring Landscape by unknown

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    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      9 years ago from Ljubljana

      Never heard of Rimpa before. It is beautiful. Thanks!

    • sponias lm profile image

      sponias lm 

      9 years ago

      Beautiful paintings!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I liked these paintings. Thanx a lot for introducing me to a new school of Art.


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