Scholar Viewing a Lake

Kanō Tan'yū (Japanese, 1602-1674)

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In the lower left corner a Chinese gentleman and his attendant look out upon a vast, watery panorama, with humble huts hugging the shoreline, boats moored among reeds, and large buildings against a backdrop of distant mountains. The use of light ink washes to capture the drifting banks of mist results in a gentle lyricism. In vivid contrast to the soft, atmospheric treatment of the distant objects, dark black ink was used to outline the crystalline top of a rock and the contorted trunk of an imposing pine tree. The strength of form and the sharp, crisp strokes used for the pine needles and branches boldly and energetically anchor the composition.

Tan'yû, often called the "revitalizer of the Kanô school," was official painter to the shōgun and the foremost artist of his day.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

In this vast, yet intimate landscape, a scholar and his attendant in the lower left corner gaze upon a watery expanse with houses and boats on the shore, as banks of mist drift among distant mountains. The artist, Tan’yu, was head of the main branch of the Kano School and the Tokugawa shogun’s official painter. Kano School painters were the principal practitioners of kanga, literally, “Chinese painting,” which blended domestic and imported Chinese painting styles. Tan’yu’s brushwork, for example, owes much to the Southern Song dynasty painter Xia Gui. Favoring strongly modulated linework and a Chinese-flavored repertory of themes, Kano painters enjoyed the lucrative patronage of the samurai ruling class, and the Kano School would reign supreme for almost four hundred years, from the 16th century on.

In China, landscapes had emerged as the most popular subject for painting by the year 1000. Besides the pleasure of admiring an artist’s skill in capturing scenic beauty, a viewer could travel in heart and mind, if not in body, to unsullied places, gaining the benefits of walking amidst mountains and streams without leaving home.

According to the 11th-century painter Guo Xi, a virtuous man nourishes his nature in rustic retreats, delighting in streams and rocks, meeting woodcutters and hermits, and watching wild animals at play.

Object Information

artist
Kanō Tan'yū (Japanese, 1602-1674)
period
Edo
creation date
1602-1674
materials
ink and color on paper
dimensions
34 5/8 x 50 1/8 in. (overall)
mark descriptions
Signed: Tan'yusai hitsu
Seal: Tan'yu
accession number
2000.64
credit line
Mr. and Mrs. William R. Spurlock Fund
copyright
Public Domain
collection
Asian Art
colors

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