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Japanese Painting: Tosa School

Scenes from The Tale of Genji, one of a pair

Scenes from The Tale of Genji, one of a pair, 1615-1868. Ink, colors and gold on paper. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D46+.

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The Tosa school, which originated in Kyoto during the Muromachi period (1392–1573), traditionally painted for the imperial family and nobility. They took as their subjects classical Japanese literature, such as the Tale of Genji and the Tales of Ise. Painting on a variety of formats, but most commonly associated with the narrative handscroll, they developed a refined painting style called yamato-e (pictures of Yamato—an old-fashioned name for Japan). As its name suggests, yamato-e is considered a purely Japanese painting style, in which paint is applied in opaque layers with strong outlines. Faces, which are indicated by abbreviated strokes, are not individualized. 

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