“Bluish-Green Fish Scales”

Kano Tan'yū Japanese

Not on view

Tan’yū is best known as the heir to the mantle of the Kano school of painters in the early seventeenth to mid-seventeenth century, so it comes as a surprise to see a boldly inscribed pair of oversize Chinese characters signed with his art name. Yet several works by the famous artist survive written in the so-called Daishi-ryū style of calligraphy, named after the monk Kōbō Daishi, the founder of Shingon sect of Buddhism in Japan. Kōbō Daishi is said to have sometimes practiced a highly exuberant and expressive form of calligraphy, which became immensely popular among Zen monks and literati in the Edo period. Here the two characters read “Hekirin,” literally, the “bluish-green scales” of a fish such as bonito tuna. In this case, however, it may be drawn from a verse of the Song poet Su Shi who wrote a poem (Huái shàng zǎo fā淮上早發) likening the rippling of waves on West Lake to luminescent bluish-green fish scales.

“Bluish-Green Fish Scales”, Kano Tan'yū (Japanese, 1602–1674), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

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