In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Rimpa School

  • Introduction
  • General Works: Compendia, Exhibition Catalogues, and Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Rinpa in Western Collections
  • Technical Studies

Art History Rimpa School
Richard L. Wilson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 February 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0180


“Rinpa,” a 20th-century neologism connoting “school of Kōrin,” designates a group of early modern artists organized around the Kyoto painter Ogata Kōrin (b. 1658–d. 1716). Most of the popular and scholarly attention is dedicated to five figures. Hon’ami Kōetsu (b. 1558–d. 1637) and Tawaraya Sōtatsu (d. c. 1640), active in Kyoto in the first half of the seventeenth century, are conventionally identified as the school’s founders. Kōrin and his younger brother Kenzan (b. 1663–d. 1743), grandnephews of Kōetsu and familiar with the work of Sōtatsu, boldly reworked elements of those pioneers for early-18th-century audiences, and spread the Rinpa manner to the new capital of Edo. In the early nineteenth century, the Kōrin mantle was taken up in Edo (the forerunner of Tokyo) by Sakai Hōitsu (b. 1761–d. 1828), who constructed a genealogical framework for the Rinpa school and, in his painting, infused the Kōrin style with the nascent empiricism of the day. A handful of lesser-known artists tailored the Rinpa mode to modern times. In contrast to academic painting practice, Rinpa artists were not bound to lineage transmission or a fixed repertory of methods or motifs. They painted and designed screens, scrolls, cards and papers, printed books, ceramics, lacquerware, and textiles. Accordingly, Rinpa has long been characterized as “decorative,” suggesting that its applications are more important than its narrative or expressive qualities. On the other hand, the majority of Rinpa themes are rooted in Heian- and Kamakura-era literature, which encouraged many scholars to describe it as neoclassical. Writing on Rinpa begins with 19th-century artist-antiquarians and, following the growth of the postwar Japanese economy, reaches a frenetic peak at the end of the twentieth century. Citations are divided here into general works, journals, prewar studies, specific artists, thematic studies, and technical studies. Overseas scholars have contributed to nearly all these categories. While every effort has been made to include those sources, benchmark publications in Japanese constitute the bulk of the entries. Note: Japanese personal names are written surname first, without comma separation. Older studies Romanize the group name as “Rimpa,” but following Wade-Giles convention, most publications spell the name with an “n” instead of “m.” Individual citations follow the spelling in the original work.

General Works: Compendia, Exhibition Catalogues, and Bibliographies

Yamane 1977–1980 and Kobayashi and Murashige 1989–1992 are hefty multivolume surveys of Rinpa painting and crafts. Kanō, et al. 1993 has a similar scope but more accessible content. Distinctive essays from these sets will be cited under individual artists. Yamane 1994–1997 and Kōno 2015 are collections of Rinpa publications by their respective authors. Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan 1972 is the catalogue for an epoch-making exhibition in Japan. Stern 1971, Link and Shimbō 1980, and Yamane, et al. 1998 are catalogues of major Rinpa exhibitions in the West and also offer an overview of the field. Comprehensive Rinpa bibliographies include Matsuo 1989–1992. Useful bibliographies in English can be found in Link and Shimbō 1980 and Carpenter 2012 (both cited in this subsection), and Feltens 2021 (cited under Ogata Kōrin).

  • British Museum and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, ed. Rimpa Arts: Transmission and Context. Conference Papers. London: British Museum and the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1999.

    Symposium papers that broadly convey the state of the field for Rinpa studies at the end of the twentieth century, both inside and outside Japan.

  • Carpenter, John. Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.

    The coverage on the broader literary and artistic contexts behind Rinpa is the strong point of this overview. Other objects from the Metropolitan collection are brought in to illustrate Rinpa’s influence outside the school. Available online.

  • Furuta Ryō and Nakamura Reiko, eds. Rinpa. Tokyo: Tokyo Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan, 2004.

    A hefty catalogue from an exhibition aiming to expose Rinpa’s relation to artistic modernism, East and West. A symposium also accompanied the show (Rinpa: Kokusai shinpojiumu hōkokusho [Rinpa: International symposium report]; Tokyo: Brukke, 2006).

  • Kanō Hiroyuki, Okudaira Shunroku, and Yasumura Toshinobu, eds. Rinpa bijutsukan (Rinpa museum). 4 vols. Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1993.

    Comprehensive treatment of Rinpa painting and craft, made accessible by thematic partitioning and innovative topics such as humor in Rinpa art.

  • Kobayashi Tadashi and Murashige Yasushi, eds. Rinpa (Rimpa painting). 5 vols with supplement. Kyoto: Shikōsha, 1989–1992.

    Lavishly illustrated catalogue of Rinpa school paintings, with informative essays. Organized around subject matter, the set offers possibilities for comparative study, and close-up photographs of seals and signatures are valuable resources for connoisseurship.

  • Kōno Motoaki. Rinpa: Hibikiau bi (Rinpa: Resonant Beauty). Kyoto: Shibunkaku Shuppan, 2015.

    A collection of the author’s many essays on Rinpa. A leading disciple of Yamane Yūzō, Kōno has excelled at developing new perspectives from biographical resources.

  • Link, Howard, and Shimbō Tōru. Exquisite Visions: Rimpa Paintings from Japan. Honolulu: Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1980.

    The first Western-language catalogue to convey the postwar research consensus on Rinpa. A useful chronology, based on the Konishi archive, is included as an appendix.

  • Matsuo Tomoko. “Sankō bunken” (Bibliographic references). In Rinpa. Edited by Kobayashi Tadashi and Murashige Yasushi, 68–85. Kyoto: Shikōsha, 1989–1992.

    A comprehensive theme-based bibliography covering from about 1900 to 1990.

  • Stern, Harold P. Rimpa: Masterworks of the Japanese Decorative School. New York: Japan House Gallery, 1971.

    Sampling of Rinpa arts, mostly from Western collections, with an appreciative essay. The first Rinpa-themed exhibition outside Japan.

  • Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan, ed. Rinpa: Sôritsu hyakunen kinen tokubetsuten zuroku (Rinpa: Catalogue for a special exhibition commemorating the centennial of its founding). Tokyo: Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan, 1972.

    This exhibition and catalogue marked the maturing of postwar Rinpa research. Calligraphy and craft items are included with the painting, and “Edo Rinpa,” the work of Hōitsu and his followers, was rehabilitated after decades of neglect. Chizawa Teiji, a contributor to postwar Rinpa research, provides a compact introduction.

  • Yamane Yūzō. Yamane Yūzō cho sakushū (Compendium of Research by Yamane Yūzō). 7 vols. Tokyo: Chūō Kōron Bijutsu Shuppan, 1994–1997.

    Yamane is the undisputed leader of Rinpa research in the late twentieth century. Nearly all his research on Sōtatsu and Kōrin is gathered in Vols. 1–4 of this anthology.

  • Yamane Yūzō, ed. Rinpa kaiga zenshū (Painting of Rinpa). 5 vols. Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha, 1977–1980.

    Deluxe folio set exhaustively illustrating major and minor artists of the school, with authoritative essays by Yamane Yūzō and his disciples. Despite the massive size of each volume, together with Yamane 1994–1997, it is the most consulted resource of the postwar era.

  • Yamane Yūzō, Naitō Masato, and Timothy Clark, with contributions by Arakawa Masaaki. Rimpa Art: From the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo. London: British Museum Press, 1998.

    The showing of the Idemitsu Museum collection at the British Museum was Europe’s first major Rinpa exhibition. Clark’s essay on the Euro-American reception of Rinpa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is especially appropriate given the venue. A symposium accompanying the show (British Museum and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 1999) offered many new perspectives.

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