Zhou Maoshu Admiring Lotuses, 15th century. Kano Masanobu, Japanese, 1434–1530. Ink and color on paper, hanging scroll, 33 1/4 × 13 inches. Kyushu National Museum, Dazaifu. National Treasure. Rotation 1 (2/12–3/15)
The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present the frst major exhibition outside Japan to be
dedicated to the Kano painters, the most enduring and infuential school of Japanese painting. Established in the 15th century, the Kano created and upheld standards of artistic excellence in Japan for nearly four hundred years. It developed against the backdrop of one of the greatest periods in Japanese history. Ink and Gold: Art of the Kano will focus on the artistic dynasty’s leading fgures and will be drawn largely from Japanese imperial, national, and private collections, including those of such celebrated cultural landmarks as Nijō-jō and Nagoya castles. The exhibition will feature rare and magnifcent works—many distinguished by their stunning use of gold leaf—that are considered treasures in Japan for their high cultural importance and rarity. The exhibition will be seen only in Philadelphia.
Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons, 1550. Kano Motonobu, Japanese, 1477–1559. Ink, color, and gold leaf on paper, one of a pair of six fold screens, each screen 63 15/16 × 141 13/16 inches. Hakutsuru Fine Art Museum, Kobe. Important Cultural Property. Rotation 3 (4/14–5/10)
The Kano School was signifcant both for its longevity and for the achievements of some its most illustrious members, such as its founder, Kano Masanobu (1434–1530), and Kano Tan’yū (1602–1674). It also became an academy, with rigorous training in workshops that fostered the development and preservation of painting traditions. The Kano School arose and then prospered under unique circumstances, frst in Kyoto and then in Edo (present-day Tokyo), with the patronage of Japan’s military and political elite. With the waning of their power and the opening of Japan to cultural infuences from abroad in the late nineteenth century, the preeminent role of the Kano School in Japanese art came to an end.
Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO, stated: “Ink and Gold is a much
anticipated milestone, both for this Museum and for the study of a signifcant chapter in the history of Japanese art. This is the most important exhibition of Japanese art that Americans will see in a very long time, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience some of Japan’s greatest artistic achievements. The exhibition will be a revelation and a delight to our visitors.”
Figures under a Pine Tree, 16th century. Kano Masanobu, Japanese, 1434–1530. Ink and gold leaf on paper, folding fan, 7 1/2 × 18 11/16 inches. Tokyo National Museum. Rotation 1 (2/12–3/15)
The last exhibition to be devoted to the entire history of the Kano School was seen in 1979 in Tokyo. In Philadelphia, due to their light sensitivity, the works in Ink and Gold will be presented in three rotations, offering multiple opportunities to experience the full depth, scope, and variety of the Kano painters’ remarkable achievements.
Included are works spanning the entire history of the School. The story begins with the
exceptionally rare paintings of Masanobu, who specialized in ink landscapes distinctive for their craggy hills and distant vistas inspired by China, which deeply informed Japanese culture. Among these is a National Treasure, a hanging scroll depicting a famous scholar admiring lotuses in a mist-flled scene. Sets of folding fans made for privileged women or visiting emissaries are also on view. Panoramas of farming across the seasons abound in the exhibition, refecting an enduring theme based on Confucian ideas that prosperous agriculture results from good government.
Tigers in a Bamboo Grove (detail), mid‑1630s. Kano Tan’yū, Japanese, 1602–1674. Ink, color, and gold leaf on paper, set of four‑panel sliding doors, each door 72 13/16 × 55 1/2 inches. Nanzen-ji Temple, Sakyō-ku, Japan. Important Cultural Property. Rotation 3 (4/14–5/10)
Among the highlights of the exhibition are works by Tan’yū. A contemporary of Rembrandt van Rijn, he is among the most admired of all Japanese artists, and was the frst Kano painter ordered by the military to open a studio in Edo. His work refects a striking range of accomplishments. His ink landscapes and scenes of waves breaking in vast seas are rendered with a virtuoso brush. Traveling between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo), Tan’yū frequently passed Mount Fuji. He was the frst to paint it in a horizontal hanging scroll format, establishing the now familiar convention through which the mountain became a national symbol for the country.
Many of the most dazzling works in the exhibition are those created for public display, especially the large-scale folding screens and sliding doors designed for the residences of Japan’s elite in the 16th and 17th centuries, with oversized fgures and landscapes. These include Tan’yū’s Eagle and Pine Tree (Nijō-jō Castle), Wasteful Payment for an Observation Tower (Nagoya Castle), and scenes of tigers prowling amid bamboo and images from The Tale of Genji.
Bishamonten Pursuing an Oni, c. 1885. Hashimoto Gahō, Japanese, 1835–1908. Ink and color on paper; mounted as a hanging scroll, 49 1/2 × 24 3/4 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Moncure Biddle in memory of her father, Ernest F. Fenollosa, 1941-107-15. Rotations 1, 2, and 3 (2/12–5/10)
While Tan’yū served the elites of both Kyoto and Edo, artists such as Eigaku (1790–1867) remained close to the culture of Kyoto, rendering courtly subjects on folding screens celebrating music, dance, and poetry, and exulting in nature with paintings of trees and exotic birds. Other Kano artists were also closely associated with Edo. Seisen’in Osanobu (1796–1846) created an elaborate decorative scheme for Edo Castle and other images ranging from Mount Fuji to falconry. His work for the castle was ultimately destroyed by fre, but it is represented in the exhibition through rare surviving sketches.
Dr. Felice Fischer, the Museum’s Luther W. Brady Curator of Japanese Art and Senior Curator of East Asian Art, stated: “Our fascination with the Kano actually began with artists represented in our own collection who were active in the fnal years of this remarkable dynasty. We wanted to explore their roots. We had done exhibitions that looked at the rebels and the renegades. As we now turn our attention to the academy, I am sure it will open people’s eyes.”
Two Dragons [in Clouds], 1885. Kano Hōgai, Japanese, 1828–1888. Ink on paper, framed, 35 1/2 x 53 1/4 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Moncure Biddle in memory of her father, Ernest F. Fenollosa, 1940-41-1. Rotations 1, 2, and 3 (2/12–5/10)
The exhibition is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and co-organized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan with the special co-operation of the Tokyo National Museum.