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Kano School after the Middle of the Edo Period
The Kanoha group during the Edo period was a huge painting group comprised of a consanguinity group mainly with the head family of the Kano family and numerous disciples around the nation, thus comprising a hierarchy. They are clearly ranked: under the most prestigious four families (called “Okueshi” inner court painters) there are about 15 families less prestigious called “Omote-eshi” outer court painters and then the “Machi Kano painters” who catered to the demands of townspeople instead of the Imperial Court or temples and shrines; and consequently their influence spread throughout the nation.
Omote-eshi independent branches, each granted an annual stipend capable of supporting twenty individuals. The 15 omote-eshi branches include: the Surugadai Kano 駿河台狩野, the Yamashita Kano 山下狩野, the Fukagawa Mizuba Kano 深川水場狩野, the Okachimachi Kano 御徒士町狩野, the Azabu Ipponmatsu Kano 麻布一本松狩野, the Kanda Matsunagacho Kano 神田松永町狩野, the Shiba Atagoshita Kano 芝愛宕下狩野, the Negishi Ogyounomatsu Kano 根岸御行の松狩野, the Tsukiji Odawaracho Kano 築地小田原町狩野, the Kanasugi Katamachi Kano 金杉片町狩野, the Saruyacho Daichi Kano 猿屋町代地狩野, the Saruyacho Daichi Bunke Kano 猿屋町代地分家狩野, the Honjo Midoricho Kano 本所緑町狩野, the Inaricho Kano 稲荷町狩野 and the Katsuta Kano 勝田狩野.
The powers of the time sought the stability and continuity of feudal society, and the paintings for public places such as the Edo Castle were supposed to be painted in the style of traditional painting examples; they were not intended to be unique. In order to create numbers of screen paintings, one must work in a group with all the disciples; therefore, in order to make group work easier, the ability to learn from painting examples was valued more than one’s individuality as a painter. In this respect it is undeniable that the paintings of the Kanoha group lack individuality and originality.
It is said that the Oku-eshi ranked with Hatamoto and were allowed ‘audience’ with the Shogun as well as belting on a sword, which implies a high status. The 4 families of the Oku-eshi are the Kajibashi family, with lineage of Tanyu (the first son of Takanobu Kano); the Kobikicho family (called Takekawa-cho family at the time), with lineage of Naonobu (the second son of Takanobu); the Nakabashi family with lineage of Yasunobu (the third son of Takanobu); and the Hamacho family, with lineage of Minenobu Kano (1662 – 1708) (Minenobu is the second son of Tsunenobu Kano, the first son of Naonobu Kano). Tanyu had no child, so he adopted Toun (Masunobu Kano 1625 – 1694), the son of Ryujo Goto, a swordsmith. Later, Morimasa Kano (1653 – 1718) who was his biological son (born after Tanyu turned 50) succeeded him, but subsequently this lineage had no distinguished painter. Among the numerous disciples of Tanyu, Morikage Kusumi (birth and death dates unknown), the creator of “Enjoying the Cool of the Evening Under the Moonflower Trellis,” is renowned. Morikage was for some reason expelled from the Kanoha group; he worked in the Kanazawa area later, but his records aren’t completely clear.
As stated previously, the head family of Kano was succeeded by the Nakabashi Family of Yasunobu, a brother of Tanyu. Tokinobu Kano (1642 – 1678), a son of Yasunobu, died in his thirties, and his son Ujinobu Kano (1675 – 1724) succeeded the family estate; however, subsequently this lineage had no distinguished painter. Itcho Hanabusa (1652 – 1724), who was popular based on his sophisticated painting style, was a disciple of Yasunobu. The family that produced relatively prominent painters until the end of the Edo period among the four families of the inner court painters is the Kobikicho family, of Naonobu’s lineage. This family line produced Tsunenobu Kano (1636 – 1713), the heir of Naonobu, and Tsunenobu’s sons, Chikanobu Kano (1660 – 1728) and Minenobu Kano (1662 – 1708). Minenobu won the favor of the Shogun Ienobu Tokugawa, and he later gained independence as ‘Hamacho family,’ which was ranked as one of the inner court painter families. Besides them, Koi Kano (date of birth unknown – 1636) was not related by blood to the Kano family but, along with his brothers, was a master of Tanyu; he was allowed to use the surname of Kano due to his achievements, and he worked for the Kishu Tokugawa family.
Meanwhile, a group called ‘Kyo Kano’ remained active in Kyoto, and Sanraku Kano (1559 – 1635), a disciple of Eitoku Kano, was the pillar of the group. Sanraku was from the Kimura clan in Omi, the vassal of Hideyoshi Toyotomi; his original name was Mitsuyori Kimura. His best works are “Peonies” and “Red and White Plum Trees” in the main house of Kyoto Daikaku-ji Temple, and they have colorful and decorative pictures on a golden base. Sansetsu Kano (1589/90 – 1651), the husband of Sanraku’s daughter, created the screen paintings in Tenkyuin, Myoshin-ji Temple as well as some paintings of folding screens, which are still in existence. He had a distinctive painting style unique among painters of the Kanoha group, such as distinct shapes of trees and rocks, as well as the completeness of detail. The essay on paintings made by Sansetsu and edited by his son Eino Kano (1631 – 1697) is entitled “Honchogashi,” the first full-fledge painting history book by a Japanese.
The Kobikicho family produced Michinobu Kano (Michinobu Eisenin (1730 – 1790)), Korenobu Kano (Korenobu Yosenin (1753 – 1808)), Naganobu Kano (Naganobu Isenin (1775 – 1828)) and Osanobu Kano (Osanobu Seisenin (1786 – 1846)) during the late Edo period. Osanobu Seisenin led the creation of numerous screen paintings as a master of the Kanoha group during the reconstruction of the Nishinomaru and Honmaru palaces of Edo Castle, which had burned down in 1838 and again in 1844. Although the paintings are no longer in existence, numerous designs are in the possession of the Tokyo National Museum. Seisenin also endeavored to copy and collect ancient paintings. Although the painters of the Kanoha group in the late Edo period are not well appreciated generally, there is a move to reappraise Seisenin as the progress of the study after the late twentieth century recognizes that he was a painter with good technique who eagerly studied art from ancient paintings and on to the new painting movement at the end of the Edo period.
Hogai Kano (born in Shimonoseki, 1828 – 1888), a leading figure of the Japanese art world during the early Meiji period, like Gaho Hashimoto (born in Kawagoe, 1835 – 1908), was a disciple of Tadanobu Kano (Tadanobu Shosen’in 1823 – 1880), the next generation of Seisenin. Both Hogai and Gaho were from painter families of the Kanoha group. The historical role of the Kanoha group as a professional painter group finished as its patron, the Edo shogunate, ended.