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Art Styles
Kano [Japan]
Kano [Japan]

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Art of the shoguns

Kano is another of the traditional Japanese styles of painting, founded by the painter Kano Masanobu [1434-1530]. The themes painted by the Kano artists were inspired by the Zen-Buddhist monks and their traditional style of painting. The shoguns were both civilian and military feudal governors of their regions, and they ruled Japan behind the guise of a puppet emperor. They saw the Imperial court as a bastion of corruption and sterile ritualism. To differ themselves from the court they established themselves as warrior princes- 'samurai' and adopted the Zen-Buddhist faith; the meditative awareness that was to be the path to enlightenment. This meditative reverie would be the founding stone of the samurai lifestyle, and they reaped its rewards in skill at weaponry, in spontaneous grace and poetry. This would them become the characteristics of the court painters to the shoguns, featuring cleanly executed linear compositions, a very ordered and harmonic sense of balance and almost neutral coloring.

The artistic dynasty of Kano Masanobu

Masanobu was best known for his portraits and depiction of human figures and he managed to give a distinctly Japanese touch to the prevalent style of the Sung Dynasty, which had shown very heavy Chinese influences at the time of the classically Chinese technique of ink and paper drawings. He began the style in the mid 15 th century under the patronage of the shogun Yoshimasa in Kyoto and this became an exclusive, approved artistic style for many generations; mainly scenes of landscapes and birds in very pale, monochromatic colors. The style ended only in the early decades of the 19 th century. Masanobu was then followed by his son, Kano Motonubo, who defined the Kano style with brash, lyrical, sweeping brushstrokes and very cleanly executed compositions. He was much more decorative in style than his austere father. The greatest artist of the school was Kano Eitoku, who added a vividly colorful palette to the style and the use of gold gilt. Eitoku was Masanobu's grandson and his art decorated the walls of the royal palaces. He is less precise in his technique and even more expressive than Motonubo. The man who revived the success of Keno painting after its decline was Kano Tan' yu' also known as Morinobu, the grandson of Eitoku. He founded hos own school of painting in 1621 and held the rank of official painter for the Tokugawa government.

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