Shinnanga By Paget, Rhiannon
Shinnanga [新南画], or “neo-nanga,” is a term that came into use during the Taisho period (1912–1926) to describe new interpretations of literati-style painting by Japanese artists at that time. Nanga [南画] is the Japanese adaptation of Chinese literati painting and is also known as nanshūga [南宗画] or “Southern style painting,” bunjinga [文人画], or literati painting. Shinnanga initially referred to experimentations among artists of nihonga [日本画] [Japanese-style painting] and yōga [洋画] [Western-style painting] with themes, pictorial techniques and sensibilities associated with literati painting, including vertical landscape compositions, expressive brushwork, a reduced color palette, and an impressionistic approach to representing form. The revival of nanga and the emergence of shinnanga occurred within the context of a broader resurgence of Sinology, fueled partly by the disintegration of the Qing dynasty, Japan’s rise as an imperial power, and the ensuing shifts of power in its relationships with China and the West. Japanese scholars found in nanga an artistic tradition that could hold its own against Western art history, arguing that nanga’s preference for subjectivity over likeness inspired Western art’s movement towards Expressionism and abstraction. Nanga was championed as the pre-eminent artistic expression of East Asia, and as an example of the common heritage of countries in the region, was invoked to naturalize Japan’s project of a Greater East Asia.