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Ink and Gold: Art of the Kano
February 16, 2015 - May 10, 2015
Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons
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 four hundred 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 in the late fifteenth century, the Kano lineage of artists served as painters-in-attendance to Japan’s powerful shoguns for four hundred years. The exhibition presents more than 120 works of art spanning the school’s long and illustrious history, including large-scale, gold leaf folding screens and sliding doors as well as ink paintings, hanging scrolls, and folding fans. Ink and Gold is the first outside Japan—and the first anywhere since 1979—to so fully examine the Kano painters’ legacy.

A splendid show, probably the greatest exhibition of Japanese art anywhere in the world this year, and the finest ever devoted to Kano painters. Boston Globe

Due to their light sensitivity, works in the exhibition will be presented in three rotations, offering multiple opportunities to experience the full depth, scope, and variety of the Kano painters’ remarkable achievements. The rotation schedule is February 16–March 15, March 18–April 12, and April 15–May 10, 2015.

Exhibition Minutes

Exhibition Trailer

Kano Painters’ Masterful Use of Gold

Curator Felice Fischer describes how the Kano artists created dramatic paintings on lustrous gold leaf to demonstrate the shoguns’ power and authority.
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Gold Leaf: A Timeless Tradition

Philadelphia artist Diane Pieri shows the irresistible appeal of gold leaf, a shimmering material that Kano painters used to great effect in their magnificent works.
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Brief History of the Kano School

Eagle and Pine Tree Room at Nijō-jō Castle, Kyoto
Experience the majestic artistry of the Kano school of painters.
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The Kano lineage was founded by Kano Masanobu (1434–1530). Originally limited to successive generations of the Kano family, the lineage 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.

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This exhibition is made possible by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Toshiba Corporation, Toshiba International Foundation, The Japan Foundation, Blakemore Foundation, The Hollis Endowment for East Asian Art Educational Programming, and The Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions. Additional generous support has been provided by Maxine S. and Howard H. Lewis, Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer and Joseph Neubauer, Steve and Gretchen Burke, Joan and John Thalheimer, the Estate of J. Welles Henderson, Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, Andrea M. Baldeck, M.D., Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, Sueyun and Gene Locks, and Cecilia Segawa Seigle Tannenbaum, and by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The accompanying publication was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Promotional support is provided by H MART.


The exhibition is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and co-organized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan with the special cooperation of the Tokyo National Museum. International transportation is sponsored by Japan Airlines.

Japan Airlines


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


Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor