Kanō Tan'yū (狩野 探幽?, 4 March 1602 – 4 November 1674) was one of the foremost Japanese painters of the Kanō school. His original given name was Morinobu; he was the eldest son of Kanō Takanobu and grandson of Kanō Eitoku. Many of the most famous and widely known Kanō works today are by Tan'yū.
In 1617, Tan'yū was appointed by the Tokugawa shogunate to become one of the shogunate's official artists. Over the following years, he was given many highly prestigious commissions. Over the 1620s and '30s, he created a number of large-scale works for Edo Castle, Nijō Castle, Osaka Castle, Nagoya Castle, and Nikkō Tōshō-gū.
Prolific in a variety of painting styles, Tan'yū's most famous works are probably those he produced for these large-scale commissions. They are screens and panels, prime examples of the Momoyama style, depicting natural subjects such as tigers, birds and plants, in bright colors and with extensive use of gold leaf. The gold, often used to represent clouds, water, or other background elements, would reflect what little light was available indoors, brightening a castle's dark rooms.
Tan'yū was also accomplished, however, in monochrome ink painting based on the prototypical style of the Muromachi period, yamato-e compositions in a style similar to that of the Tosa school, and Chinese style scrolls. His most famous yamato-e work is a narrative handscroll depicting the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun and major figure in Japanese history. It was after this commission, in 1640, that the artist first took on the "artist name" of Tan'yū.
In addition to being a highly honored and respected painter in his own right, Tan'yū was known as a collector and connoisseur of Chinese paintings. He made sketches and kept records of many of the paintings that passed through his studio, brought to him for authentication.
- Kaputa, Catherine (1985). "Kanō Tan'yū." Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
- Bridge of dreams: the Mary Griggs Burke collection of Japanese art, a catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on this artist (see index)
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