Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons, second half of 16th century, Kano School (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
Ink and Gold: Art of the Kano
February 16, 2015 - May 10, 2015
The Kano family’s creative legacy endured for nearly 400 years, forever defining Japanese art. Experience breathtaking Kano masterpieces—the pride of Japan—in this unprecedented exhibition. Only in Philadelphia.Ink and Gold explores the stunning artistry of the esteemed Kano painters, the most enduring and influential school of painting in Japanese history. Established by Kano Masanobu in the late fifteenth century, the lineage created and upheld standards of artistic excellence in Japan for nearly four hundred years. The exhibition presents more than 120 works of art spanning the school’s long and illustrious history with a focus on large-scale, gold leaf folding screens and sliding doors designed for residences of Japan’s ruling elite. This exhibition, which also includes ink paintings, hanging scrolls, and folding fans, is the first outside Japan—and the first anywhere since 1979—to so fully examine the Kano painters’ legacy.
Originally limited to successive generations of the Kano family, the lineage soon developed into an academy of professional artists patronized by the Tokugawa shogunate, the military rulers of Japan from 1615 to 1868. Kano painters gained prominence during a period that witnessed extensive building projects after nearly a century of civil wars, which had damaged or destroyed many temples and residences. Powerful military families rebuilt their dwellings as impressive castles and homes, which they then decorated with large-scale paintings by Kano artists. With oversize animals, figures, and landscapes set against a background of lustrous gold leaf, these works are symbolic of the ruling class’s aspirations for power and grandeur.
With the fall of the shogunate in 1868, Kano artists lost their official patrons. By the end of the century, Japan had emerged on the world stage after nearly three hundred years of self-imposed isolation. Among the ideas and influences introduced to the country were painting styles and formats from the West, which Kano-trained artists used to breathe new life into the tradition.
Ink and Gold is drawn primarily from Japanese collections, with loans from US museums and contributions from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s permanent collection. Additionally, a broad range of programs such as film screenings, family celebrations, performances, lectures, and dining events will be offered throughout the run of the exhibition.
This exhibition is cocurated by Felice Fischer, The Luther W. Brady Curator of Japanese Art and Senior Curator of East Asian Art, and Kyoko Kinoshita, Project Associate Curator, East Asian Art. In February 2014, Fischer was named to the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, one of Japan’s highest honors. She was recognized for her contributions to cultural exchange in the field of art and for deepening the appreciation of Japanese culture in the United States. Created in 1875, the Order of the Rising Sun was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese government. It is given to distinguished Japanese and non-Japanese individuals in the fields of international relations, culture, and the environment.