Sakai Hōitsu

"Autumn Flowers and Moon" by Sakai Hōitsu

Sakai Hōitsu (酒井 抱一, 1761–1828) was a Japanese painter of the Rinpa school. He is known for having revived the style and popularity of Ogata Kōrin, and for having created a number of reproductions of Kōrin's work.

Family background

Hōitsu was born in Edo; his father was the lord (daimyo) of Himeji Castle in Harima Province.

The Sakai daimyō clan originated in Mikawa Province. They claim descent from Minamoto no Arichika. Arichika had two sons: one of them, Yasuchika, took the name of Matsudaira; and the other son, Chikauji, took the name of Sakai, and this is the ancestor of the Sakai clan. Sakai Hirochika, the son of Chikauji, had two sons as well; and the descendants of these two sons gave rise to the two principal branches of the clan.[1]

A cadet branch of the Sakai is composed of the descendants of Sakai Masachika, who was a vassel of the Tokugawa – Nobutada, Kiyoyasu et Hirotada. In 1561, Masachika was installed at Nishio Castle in Mikawa province, and the security of the castle was confided in him.[1] In 1590, Sakai Shigetada, the son of Masachika, received the domain of Kawagoe in Musashi Province (15,000 koku); then in 1601, he was installed at Umayabashi in Kōzuke province (35,000 koku).[2] In 1749, Sakai Tadakiyo (1626–1681) and his descendants were transferred to Himeji in Harima Province (150,000 koku); and they remained daimyō at Himeji until the Meiji period.[2]

Artistic career

Moving to Kyoto, Hōitsu began his studies in art in the Kanō school before moving on to study under Utagawa Toyoharu of the ukiyo-e style. He later studied under Watanabe Nangaku of the Maruyama school and Sō Shiseki of the nanga style before finally becoming a painter of the Rinpa school.

Hōitsu became a Buddhist priest in 1797, and spent the last 21 years of his life in seclusion. During this time, he studied the work of Ogata Kōrin extensively, as well as that of Kōrin's brother Ogata Kenzan, and produced a number of reproductions of the brothers' works. He also produced two books of woodblock prints of the brothers' work, as well as one book of his own; these were titled Kōrin Hyakuzu (1815), Kenzan Iboku Gafu (1823), and Oson Gafu respectively.

Hōitsu's style shows elements of the realism of ukiyo-e, but resembles particularly the decorative style of Ogata Kōrin, which Hōitsu took major steps to revive.

Critical analysis

According to critic Robert Hughes, the core achievement in painting during the Edo period was the allusive and delicate work of the Rinpa artists; and in Hōitsu's large folding screen Flowers and Grasses of Summer and Autumn, he says, "you can almost feel the wind bending the rhythmical pattern of stems and leaves against their silver ground."[3] In another screen, Flowering Plants of Summer, Hughes suggested that Hoitsu "possessed epigrammatic powers of observation," as demonstrated in another screen, Flowering Plants of Summer, in which "the fronds bend and bow under the summer rain, weaving a delicate lattice of green against the now tarnished silver ground."[4] According to scholar Meccarelli the style used for painting vegetation was not faithful to chiaroscuro or naturalism, but rather retook the flora and fauna decorative paintings of Nanpin school.[5]


  1. 1 2 Papinot, Jacques. (2003). Nobiliare du Japon – Sakai, pp. 50–51; Papinot, Jacques Edmond Joseph. (1906). Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie du Japon. (in French/German).
  2. 1 2 Papinot, p. 51.
  3. Hughes, Robert. "Style Was Key," Time. June 24, 2001.
  4. Hughes, Robert. "Spare Clarity," Time. October 30, 1972.
  5. Meccarelli, Marco "Chinese Painters in Nagasaki: Style and Artistic Contaminatio during the Tokugawa Period (1603-1868)" Ming Qing Studies 2015, pp. 175-236.


See also

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