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Kano Seisen'in Osanobu

Waterfall Landscape


Kano Seisen'in Osanobu
1796-1846, active in Japan


Waterfall Landscape


About 1819-1834 (?)


Ink on silk


185.5 x 46.5 cm (scroll), 97 x 29 cm (image)


Gift of Freda and Irwin Browns, inv. 2013.407


Western Art

Osanobu was the last famous painter of the Kano school. Born into a family of Kano painters in Edo (now Tokyo) and receiving rigorous training from his father, Kano Naganobu, Osanobu was also a fervent Buddhist. In 1819 he received the monastic rank of hogen, while in 1834 he achieved that of hoin, the highest position in a Buddhist temple. He likely produced this beautiful painting, imbued with asceticism, during the period of his ascent within the monastic hierarchy. The atmospheric composition, suggestive of tranquillity and lofty ideals, was built up with washes of ink. The negative white space, devoid of ink and revealing the untreated areas of silk, reinforces the effect of mist while at the same time creates a sense of depth. The minimalism of this painting’s composition strongly reflects Osanobu’s faith in Zen Buddhism, whose aesthetic of simplicity can be found in the humble approach to landscape, the sparse use of ink and the choice of the waterfall as the prime subject matter. Ascetic Buddhist priests favoured waterfalls as sites for deep meditation, sitting at their base to gain access to the world of divine spirits and their power to mediate in the temporal world.

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