Overview of Ink Painting (Suibokuga)
These are paintings done in black ink (sumi), in which nuances are expressed through variations in brush techniques and through contrasted shadings of ink. This type of painting was established as a genre in Japan after Song- and Yuan-dynasty paintings of this type were brought back from China by practitioners of Zen in the 13th and 14th centuries.
After the Muromachi period, it became fashionable among Zen monks to display hanging poetry scrolls (shigajiku) bearing Chinese poems, and it also became common to decorate fusuma sliding door panels in Buddhist temples and elsewhere with ink landscape paintings. Sesshu successfully established a distinctly Japanese style of ink painting different from earlier works that had only copied Chinese forms. In the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods, gorgeous, multicolored kompeki partition paintings were executed, but suibokuga partition paintings were also fashionable, and such talented artists as Hasegawa Tohaku and Tawaraya Sotatsu, using their own unique brush techniques, achieved works of ink painting that expressed the full potential of the medium. In the Edo period, scholar-gentlemen producers of bunjinga (literati paintings) such as Ike no Taiga, Yosa Buson, and Uragami Gyokudo opened still other vistas, with their free and unfettered ink-painting styles.