Konichiwa! Today, we visit Japan to explore one of my favorite artworks, the portrait sculpture of priest Shunjōbō Chōgen. I love this thing.
I first discovered this artwork about 7 months ago. I was flipping through Gardner’s Art through the Ages, a MASSIVE art history textbook, looking for ideas for my very first art post on my brand new blog! I even tweeted about it from my brand new twitter account for my brand new blog. I think this may have been my first tweet.
— Cindy Ingram (@ArtCurator4Kids) March 31, 2014
This artwork is just breathtaking. The faithful realism, painted details, and the inlaid rock crystals in the eyes give this artwork such a powerful punch. Am I the only one in awe of this sculpture? I’m dieing to see this in person. The textbook says it is only 2’8.4″ high. I wonder if it is as powerful knowing it is that small? Or maybe it packs more of a punch? You never know until you see it. That’s why it is so important to visit museums and see art in person!
If you want to know a little bit about this guy, it is Shunjōbō Chōgen. He was instrumental in helping rebuild Tōdai-ji, a Buddhist temple in Nara, Japan after it was destroyed in war. He lived from 1121-1206 and spent 25 years on the rebuilding efforts.
Art Discussion Questions
- What type of person is this? How can you tell? What choices did the artist make to show this?
- What emotion or mood is projected in this artwork? How does the material and the way it was sculptured enhance that mood?
Art Learning Activity or Project
I’m going to go simple with this one. This artwork is so simple and beautiful that it would be a great activity to spend some time looking at him and sketching. See if your students can capture the emotion and realism that the sculpture conveys.
More Resources and Citations
- If you choose to do the drawing exercise, here is a great site with videos on how to draw faces and facial proportions.
- Works Cited: Kleiner, Fred, and Christin Mamiya. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. 12th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2005. Print.
Okay, that’s it for today. Let me know what you thought of this one in the comments. Tomorrow, we are traveling to India to see an amazing building totally covered in brilliant sculpture!
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