Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645) was one of the most accomplished duelists in history. He claimed to have fought in around sixty duels, many of which (unfortunately for his opponents) were fought to the death. Yet, despite his life of bloodshed, Musashi had an artistic side. The art that most people know him by is his writing. The Go Rin No Sho, or Book of the Five Rings, which he wrote shortly before his death in 1645, is deemed to be his masterpiece. But words were not the only form of art in which he excelled. The same work ethic and diligence in technique that made Musashi a legendary swordsman also made him a masterful painter.
No one knows exactly when Miyamoto Musashi began to paint, but he is known to have been creating works of art by the 1630s. His strategic mind showed through in his work—the paintings he created were made with controlled amounts of precise exertion to produce baffling effects. In many ways, his art was minimalist in nature, with simple ink being his main painting material.
Miyamoto Musashi was a master of monochrome ink-painting, and applied this art form to recreate scenes of landscapes and wildlife. Birds, in particular, seemed to be of interest to the duelist; he painted various kinds of birds in multiple locations, such as roaming through reeds, or resting on tree limbs. He also, but less frequently, painted human figures, one of which was a self-portrait. Included below are some of Miyamoto Musashi’s more notable public domain works.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
- The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, translated by Lord Majesty Productions, 2005.