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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Be  sure to stop by the Japanese art gallery for a last chance to see the Museum’s exquisite pair of Kano school tiger and dragon screens, which will go off view soon on August 22. Established in the 1400s and continuing into modern times, the distinguished Kano school of hereditary professional painters is the longest flourishing and influential school of painting in Japan. The Kano brothers, Kano Tan’yu and Kano Naonobu, were court painters to the shogun in Edo, or present-day Tokyo.

The two screens reflect the intimate relationship in Japan between the dragon and tiger, which are often depicted together. According to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism that was influential in Japan, the dragon and tiger symbolize two opposite yet complementary forces (yin and yang) in the universe. While the tiger represents yin, or passivity, darkness, and the earth, the dragon represents yang, or activity, light, and the heavens.

Revealing great talent and connoisseurship of classic Chinese and Japanese ink paintings, Tan'yu depicted the dragon with fluid, confident brushwork and a great control of ink washes and tones. In contrast, Naonobu’s style was more restrained and quiet. He endowed the tiger with vitality through the play of broad and thin, light and dark, and wet and dry brushstrokes enhanced by light ink washes.

- Vivian Li, Assistant Curator, Asian Art

KANO Tan’yu (Japanese, 1602-1674) - Dragon
KANO Naonobu (Japanese, 1607-1650) - Tiger
1630–1640 Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink on paper
Overall 172.7 x 377.8 cm (68 x 148 3/4 in.)
Museum purchase, Harriet B. Bancroft Fund and partial gift of Robert H. Simmons, 1987.9, 1987.10

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