「絵師」と「蒔絵師」”Artist” and “Maki-e artist”


I talked about drawing lines in the last post. In addition to Maki-e at that time, I would like to spell out what I have been doing since I was a student, thinking that it would lead to Maki-e.

分業作業から一貫作業へ From division of labor to integrated work


Urushi art is said to be at its peak in terms of technology and demand from the Edo period to the Meiji period.

参考:浮世絵 絵師は葛飾北斎 Reference: Ukiyoe painter is Hokusai Katsushika


I think that the old and mass-produced “Makie” is similar to “Ukiyoe”. I think that “Ukiyoe” was also a work that consisted of the skills of each craftsman, a painter, a carver, and a paper rubbing master, due to the division of labor.


Urushi art was also the culmination of the skills of craftsmen such as groundworkers, painters, Artists, Maki-e Artists, and Roiro masters. Of course, this was because the production volume was large and there were many craftsmen involved, so it was possible to divide the work. Ukiyoe also typically mentions the artist’s name, but there are many craftsmanship jobs there.



作品写真がないので参考までに羊遊斎の蒔絵作品の図録表紙(絵師は酒井抱一)Since there is no work photo, for reference, the cover of the picture book of the Maki-e work of Yoyusai (Artist is Hoitsu Sakai)

There was also a “Artist” in Makie’s work, and the “Artist” was taken up as a representative. For urushi works such as Korin Ogata and Koetsu Honami, which are works of the Rinpa school, their names are only taken up, and the names of craftsmen do not appear. But they played the role of a kind of producer. In reality, they may not have touched the urushi, which is at risk of skin irritation when working.


It is said that it was not until the Edo period that craftsmen such as “Maki-e Artist” instead of “Artist” began to show their inscriptions. In the Edo period, the combination of “Artist” and “Maki-e Artist” sold very well.


With the changing times, the patron named Edo Shogunate, who was the client of the urushi work, has disappeared. It is also said that many of the Maki-e artists have lost their jobs. With the introduction of Western culture, the choice of diverse lifestyles has increased, and the lacquer art population and demand have decreased.


The remaining urushi workers could not afford to ask someone else for work, and urushi work changed from divisional work to integrated work, and I wondered if a artist-like urushi artist who could do everything alone was born. Of course, there are still production areas and workshops that are still working in divisional labor. However, even if it is a division of labor, I think there are problems that each production area has, such as the amount of work and the shortage of successors.


In modern times, “Maki-e Artist” is often thought of as a “Artist”, but it changes depending on the times, the amount of production, the lacquer art population, and other surrounding environments. Line drawing Maki-e lines have properties that are slightly different from the lines that draw pictures because they use viscous urushi. If you want to draw a line really accurately, I think you have to give up the feeling of drawing a picture.


But if you do so, it may be very inorganic and the lines as a picture may die. It is one technique to utilize the lines as a picture. I personally strongly think that it is a very difficult and difficult technique.


In the class at school, I realized that it would be extremely difficult to work consistently with the technique that had been established by the division of labor. It means to consistently do all the work of the groundworker, painter, Artist, Maki-e artist, and Roiro(polish) master. It means that one person will do the amount of work for 5 to 6 people. .. .. .. Simply thinking, it is very difficult both technically and in terms of the amount of work. In the old works, the technique of the Maki-e Artist who perfectly reproduces the line of the Artist is really wonderful. In modern times, doing both is a pretty steep and long road.


“Zeshin Shibata” is a famous person who has done both an Artist and a Maki-e artist. He was a person in the late Tokugawa period, and I think it was very rare at that time when division of labor was common. (However, since he had many excellent disciples, it is unclear to what extent he was made by himself.) I think that any urushi artist knows and longs for it.


I have introduced it several times in this blog. If you are interested, I would appreciate it if you could read it together.

実物の線を見る See the real line


Of course I enjoyed the school lessons, but of course I get tired of just working silently. There are times when I feel depressed. It’s quite difficult to stay motivated.


I think it’s common to everything. I didn’t like studying, so I was quite tired of it, and it was quite annoying, so I had a hard time every day.


However, the work of Makie was fun for me, so I was able to continue. And if I do it, I can acquire it as my own technique and immerse myself in the beauty of urushi, shell, and gold powder when it is completed as a work. I’m happy to be able to meet something that makes me crazy.

よく行っていた「相国寺」”Sokokuji” that I visited often


季節毎に行っていた「両足院」”Ryosokuin” that I visited every season

When I was a student, I went to Kyoto city every Saturday to set a secret reward for myself, and went to shrines and temples and museums to see crafts and Japanese art. In Kyoto, in addition to regular visits at shrines and temples, there are special seasonal visits. There are many places to see all year round. There are too many places I want to visit, so I went to see 3 to 5 places instead of just one place a day. I prioritized the time to visit somewhere over the time to eat lunch at a restaurant somewhere.


Every time I saw something every week, I was keenly aware of my poor skill, and I was encouraged by the increase in what I could see. I still often review the photos I took at that time. When I think about it now, I think I was so young and physically fit.


Moreover, there were a lot of tourists in Kyoto city at that time before Corona, so in the morning I sometimes got on the first train at the opening time of the temple. I think Kyoto will be getting more and more crowded from now on, so early morning before 9 o’clock is recommended.


What do you see when you look at the artwork and motif?

私は何を見ていたかというと。。。↓What did I see? .. .. ↓

  • モチーフの実物(主に花・鳥)の自然の線
  • 日本画作品の絵師の線
  • 蒔絵作品の蒔絵師の線
  • Natural lines of the actual motif (mainly flowers and birds)
  • Line of painter of Japanese painting work
  • Line of the Maki-e artist of the Maki-e work
襖絵が美しかった「仁和寺」”Ninnnaji temple” where the 襖 picture was beautiful


When I was at school, I was particularly focused on drawing lines, so I was conscious of various lines. I consciously went to see these three pillars. Especially at the shrines and temples in Kyoto, I was very happy to see treasures and winds closer than the museum. I will look at the work while imagining what kind of brush I used to draw it and how fast it was when I drew it.


Why is it Japanese painting, not Western painting? .. .. Of course, the sketches of Makie are historically Japanese paintings. The painting materials for Japanese painting are different from urushi, but since they use brushes, they are common in terms of brush strokes. In modern times, there are various writing tools, not brushes. Calligraphy still exists in Japan, but the practice of always drawing anything with a brush is much less common in modern times than in the past.


Also, in Japanese painting, the outline is drawn clearly by saying “bone drawing line(Kotsugaki-sen)”. Even in the sketch of Maki-e, draw a line clearly. I find it very difficult to “determine this line”.


By the way, at school, there was also a Japanese painting class on an optional basis. I was struggling because it was difficult to draw this Kotsugaki-sen and Tarashikomi.


And when I look at the Makie work, I use a monocular to see where the creator took a breather. I am studying various things, seeing if I can draw such a beautiful line if I take a breather here. Unfortunately, depending on the work, the exhibition may be too far away to be seen so well, but it was around the third year that I gradually began to understand and see the breathing lines of this Maki-e. Until then, I just went to see a lot of Maki-e works.


Anyway, at first I just thought it was beautiful. Then, what I saw gradually changed, and I entered the next stage.


What I can see in detail about the year of production is what stage of the person’s life it is. I have come to estimate and profile how many years man have been able to do this work since man started Maki-e, and how much man should do to get there. Of course, there are strict differences depending on the physical ability of each individual. This is to motivate me to act with a keen sense of my low skill and thinking that I am still lacking.


Also, I think that the environment in which the historical background such as war and catastrophe is drawn is also important for understanding the work. And above all, I think the important point is what kind of procedure, technique, and number of processes are used, and if it is a craft, it is a division of labor or it is consistently made by one person. I imagine where the creator’s thoughts are and what I have overlooked. That’s a lot of fun for me.

  1. ぼーっと見てる Look
  2. 量を見る Look a lot
  3. 惹かれるものを厳選する Carefully select what I am attracted to
  4. 背景を理解する Understand the background
  5. 制作者の作業過程・意図を想像する Imagine the work process and intention of the creator


In the above order, the way of looking at the work has changed from my student life. I go to see the same works many times that I find every time I see them. Rather than wanting to refer to everything that this person draws, I want to refer to this part of this work by this person for each part of each motif. I have accumulated it in my head to some extent and am updating it.


These days, if I think too much about it, my head and eyes get tired, so I’m doing it moderately. However, art exhibitions that have something I want to see can be a break, so I try to go as much as possible.


Since urushi art works have a huge amount of techniques, I think they are crafts that can fully utilize the individuality of each individual. Even if it is the same technique, it really varies depending on the person who makes it. Nothing is the same. It’s very interesting to see it, and I never get tired of it. Since it has a long history, many people have been involved in it, and there are many works left behind.


I also write about the impressions of the exhibitions I would like to recommend on my blog every time, so I hope you can read them. People have different values, but I think that if you can meet a work that you like and feel uplifted or positive, that alone will make you very happy.


The image of this work is a photographable work in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum.


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