Right of a pair of six-panel folding screens; ink on paper
Harriet B. Bancroft Fund and partial gift of Robert H. Simmons
The most prolific and versatile painter of the early Edo period, Kano Tan'yu was deeply involved in traditional ink painting both as artist and as connoisseur. As official painter of the Tokugawa shogunate, Tan'yu had access to original Chinese Southern Song and Yuan landscapes, Ming bird-and-flower painting, and earlier Japanese painting in the Tokugawa collection. Continuing the ink-painting tradition introduced into Japan from China in the Muromachi period (1392-1568), the works of both Tan'yu and his brother Naonobu represent a new synthesis that drew on all the styles of Japanese painting. The artists' grandfather was the great Kano Eitoku, whose fluent and spontaneous brushwork and spatial organization are echoed in these screens.
The tiger and dragon, old motifs in East Asian art, were adopted into Zen painting as symbols of Buddhist doctrine. The dual subject, which had appealed also to the warlords of the Momoyama period (1573-1615), continued to be popular with artists through the eighteenth century.
See the associated painting, Tiger.