Loading Spinner

Japanese Paintings

Evidence of Japanese painting can be seen as early as 300 B.C., with an adoption of the Japanese painting aesthetic of yamato-e during the Heian period. With thousands of years of varying styles, there is one unifying characteristic throughout: in all periods and schools of art, Japanese paintings have always been deeply rooted in literary tradition with a sensibility for emotional content within an image.

One of the most well-known Japanese paintings demonstrating this sensibility and Japanese literary tradition is "The Tale of Genji." This painting is written and illustrated in the form of a hand scroll read from right to left and only revealed in parts. It also introduces a style of painting men and women with a simple hook for a nose, two slits for eyes, and small lips. This style of figural painting is commonly found throughout Japanese works.

Other Japanese paintings were painted on standing or sliding screens. These scenes, typically on gold leaf backgrounds, were also often taken from old well-known stories. For example, Ogata Korin’s painting "Eight Bridges" depicts bold, saturated, irises and the insinuation of a bridge. This alludes to a story, "Tales of Ise," in which an exiled man sees irises and longs to be with his love. Similarly, motifs such as waves and peonies are taken from well-known Japanese literature.


Quick Facts

  • Many famous Japanese painters were considered eccentrics for their time. Soga Shohaku, a painter during the Edo period, is well known for his rejection of gold backgrounds and saturated color in favor of Muromachi style black and white ink paintings
  • Some famous Japanese paintings have been found within Samurai castles, intended as a display of wisdom of power. These paintings featured strong forces of nature, such as trees. A famous example is the massive standing screen of an old plum tree, which represents the daimyo
  • While many Japanese paintings depicted stories and others natural scenes, some were meant as contemplative pieces to initiate thoughts about religion. "Catching a Catfish with a Gourd" was painted for Zen priests and paired with poems on trying to catch a catfish with a gourd that's too small

Recommended Items at Auction

See all items

JAPANESE 'ORDER OF THE SACRED TREASURE' MEDAL
Oct 31, 8:00 AM EDT
JAPANESE 'ORDER OF THE SACRED TREASURE' MEDAL
by Alexander Historical Auctions LLC
Est: $40- $60
$805 Bids
TAY BAK KOI (SINGAPOREAN 1939-2005) UNTITLED
Nov 05, 10:00 AM GMT
TAY BAK KOI (SINGAPOREAN 1939-2005) UNTITLED
by Lyon & Turnbull
Est: £400- £600
£2404 Bids
Antique Japanese Kasuri Ikat Farmer's Jacket
Nov 15, 10:00 AM EST
Antique Japanese Kasuri Ikat Farmer's Jacket
by Material Culture
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
SHINICHI YUIZE
Oct 31, 8:00 AM EDT
SHINICHI YUIZE
by Alexander Historical Auctions LLC
Est: $40- $60
$201 Bid
Japanese Woodblock Print, Hiroshige, Utagawa 1797-1858 Copy of the early Showa period (Oban yokoe)
Dec 04, 2:00 PM CET
Japanese Woodblock Print, Hiroshige, Utagawa 1797-1858 Copy of the early Showa period (Oban yokoe)
by Signens Kunstauktionen
Est: €40- €80
€301 Bid
Antique Japanese h/painted floral umbrella stand 60 cm high
Oct 31, 10:00 AM AEDT
Antique Japanese h/painted floral umbrella stand 60 cm high
by Woodlands Auctions
Est: AUD150- AUD250
AUD501 Bid
bp parity badge
Michio Takayama, In the Dawn, 1966
Nov 06, 10:00 AM MDT
Michio Takayama, In the Dawn, 1966
by Santa Fe Art Auction
Est: $3,000- $5,000
$2,0001 Bid
Wyatt Earp Pocket Watch
Nov 13, 9:00 AM CST
Wyatt Earp Pocket Watch
by Dees Auction Company,LLC
Est: $40- $60
$151 Bid
ROPS, Félicien (1833-1898). ("William Lesly"). (1875). Etching on Japanese paper. 233 x
Nov 16, 1:30 PM CET
ROPS, Félicien (1833-1898). ("William Lesly"). (1875). Etching on Japanese paper. 233 x
by Burgersdijk & Niermans
Est: €75- €90
€750 Bids
Japanese woodcut, (okio-ah) Edo period Signed by the artist kitao shigemasi Size 15.5 * 22
Oct 31, 8:00 PM EET
Japanese woodcut, (okio-ah) Edo period Signed by the artist kitao shigemasi Size 15.5 * 22
by Village Gallery Israel
Est: $450- $900
$3000 Bids
Japanese woodcut, (Akio-ah) Painting of fish signed by the artist Size 17.5 * 24 cm
Oct 31, 8:00 PM EET
Japanese woodcut, (Akio-ah) Painting of fish signed by the artist Size 17.5 * 24 cm
by Village Gallery Israel
Est: $180- $360
$1200 Bids
George Appert (French,1850-1934) oil painting antique
Dec 12, 11:45 AM EST
George Appert (French,1850-1934) oil painting antique
by Broward Auction Gallery
Est: $1,350- $1,700
$7500 Bids
Japanese Painting of Monks
Oct 30, 10:00 AM EDT
Japanese Painting of Monks
by Regency Auction House
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
20TH C. LARGE FRAMED JAPANESE PAINTING ON SILK
Nov 14, 11:00 AM EST
20TH C. LARGE FRAMED JAPANESE PAINTING ON SILK
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$5000 Bids
A PAIR OF PAINTINGS BY ATSUSHI KIKUCHI
Oct 30, 10:00 AM EDT
A PAIR OF PAINTINGS BY ATSUSHI KIKUCHI
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$100 Bids
[HAND PAINTED]. A UNIQUE COLLECTION OF HAND PAINTED POSTCAR...
Nov 20, 10:00 AM CST
[HAND PAINTED]. A UNIQUE COLLECTION OF HAND PAINTED POSTCAR...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $600- $900
$3000 Bids
Silk painting, Japan, 20th cen
Nov 04, 10:00 AM CET
Silk painting, Japan, 20th cen
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€1200 Bids
Watercolour of a peasant woman
Nov 04, 10:00 AM CET
Watercolour of a peasant woman
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€800 Bids
3 Edna Hibel Limited Edition Prints & Plaque
Oct 30, 11:30 AM EDT
3 Edna Hibel Limited Edition Prints & Plaque
by Joshua Kodner
Est: $200- $300
$500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Paintings


Signens Kunstauktionen

Signens Kunstauktionen

Stallion Hill Gallery

Stallion Hill Gallery

Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction

Roseberys

Roseberys