Contemplative Art: ‘Landscape’ by Kano Motonobu (1476-1559)

Kano Motonobu (1476-1559), Landscape, Muromachi period, 16th century, Japan, Hanging scroll, Ink on paper, Seal: Motonobu, H 35.0 x W 52.4 cm. Private collection.

The ancient Chinese, to whom Japanese artists looked as models, asserted that black ink had in fact “many colors”, and that, therefore, black ink alone sufficed for painting. This Chinese credo was heartily embraced in Japan during the Muromachi period in the fifteenth century, and established firm principles for painters, especially artists of the influential Kano school.

“Landscape”, a hanging scroll by the Japanese master, Kano Motonobu (1476 – 1559) pursues this principle in creating black ink monochrome paintings of great sublime beauty. The poetic rendition of this misty landscape may have originally been part of a large composition that created an interior space on a sliding door panel or a folding screen.

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