Nihonga By Kazuhara, Eve Loh
Nihonga refers to Japanese-style painting that uses mineral pigments, and occasionally ink, together with other organic pigments on silk or paper. It was a term coined during the Meiji period (1868–1912) to differentiate it from its counterpart, known as Yôga (洋画) or Western-style painting. The term literally translates to “pictures of Japan.” Nihonga has gone through many phases of development since the Meiji period. Critics differentiate between the Kyoto and Tokyo schools of Nihonga, and in particular their styles and subject matter, but both developments should be taken into consideration concurrently to give a comprehensive account of Nihonga. Furthermore, because Nihonga artists reference the myriad of styles from Japan’s rich pictorial heritage, such as the stylistic traditions from Nanga (南画), Rinpa (琳派) and Kano (狩野派) to Murayama-Shijio (円山四条) schools, it is no wonder that the term is confused further with other genres within Japanese art, such as Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) or Suibokuga (水墨画). Confusion aside, Nihonga remains a relatively modern entry into Japanese painting history.