Kano Eigaku (狩野永岳)

Eigaku KANO (1790 - February 6, 1867) was a Kyoto-based painter who was active in the late Edo period. The ninth head of the Kyo Kano (Kyoto branch of Kano school). Based on the Momoyama painting style (luxurious, splendid and decorative style created during the Azuchi-Momoyama period), Eigaku actively adopted various painting styles such as MARUYAMA Shijo school, literati painting and Revived Yamato-e (reviving traditional Japanese style painting) and succeeded in reviving the Kyo Kano family which had lost popularity and influence then.

Eigaku (永岳 or永嶽) was his imina (real name). His original name was Yasusuke and his azana (nickname) Korei. His go (pen name) included Sanryo, Bansui and Datsuan. He also called himself Nuinosuke that was a common name used by the heads of the Kyo Kano family for generations. He was born and raised in Kyoto.

Brief Biography

Eigaku's father was Dogyoku KAGEYAMA (later Eisho KANO), who was a painter of Kyo Kano school. Eishun KANO, the eighth head of Kyo Kano, who discovered a young Eigaku's talent, adopted him and Eigaku took over as the family head at the age of 27 when Eishun died in 1816.

He was so proud of being a descendant of Sanraku KANO that he signed and sealed on his paintings or autographed on the boxes containing artwork as 'Sanraku kyusei mago' (the ninth generation of Sanraku). Eigaku earnestly studied the paintings of Sanraku and Sansetsu KANO, taking the Momoyama painting style as a base for his painting.

In addition, he actively adopted the painting style of Shijo school that was popular in Kyoto at that time. Furthermore, his painting style was influenced by Nagasaki school, a painting school influenced by Shen Nanpin who came to Japan in the middle of the Edo period, Hokusoga (the northern school of Chinese painting) and literati painting spread by Buncho TANI, decorative Rinpa style by Sotatsu TAWARAYA and Korin OGATA, Revived Yamato-e learned directly from his nephew, Tameyasu REIZEI. In this way he avidly adopted various painting styles to blend them with his own painting style.

The Kyo Kano family had been in a close relationship with the Kujo family for generations, and when Eigaku was 33 years old, he served Hisatada KUJO who liked painting. In 1853, Eigaku accompanied Hisatada on his official visit to Edo as sadaijin (Minister of the Left) and saw Mt. Fuji, which inspired him to paint 'Fuji Hyappuku' (one hundred paintings of Mt. Fuji).

When Eigaku was the family head, the Kyo Kano also served as an official painter of Kishu Tokugawa family and the Hikone domain. The portrait of Naosuke II housed at Seiryo-ji Temple, the family temple of the Ii, was assumedly painted by Eigaku.

After Eigaku became the deputy official court painter at the age of 57, he sometimes signed and sealed as 'kinmon gashi' ('金門画史') or 'kinmon gain daiichishi' ('金門画院第一史').
When he was 66 years old, he participated in the rebuilding of Kyoro Imperial Palace at Ansei period to create many wall paintings at the palace

Many Eigaku's works are housed in Rinzai Sect Myoshin-ji Temple, among which works the wall painting of the reception hall in Rinka-in Temple is considered to be his masterpiece. Rinzai Sect Daitoku-ji Temple also has many Eigaku's works such as choso (portraits of high ranking Zen monks). He also created a large wall painting at Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, but it was later destroyed in a fire. Many Eiraku's paintings are also housed in local branch temples of Hongan-ji Temple.

In addition, Eigaku, who had many patrons, expanded his artistic activities to Nagahama or Hida and painted there upon the wealthy merchants' or farmer's request.

When Eigaku took over as the family head, Kyo Kano, serving as the official painter at the Imperial Palace, was playing second fiddle to the Tosa school and the Tsurusawa school. Besides, the traditional painting schools were losing their momentum and the new painting schools with distinctive characters were emerging in the late Edo period instead. Eigaku tried to revolutionize the traditional painting style of Kyo Kano for its survival and succeeded in establishing its own distinctive style. He was treated as a leading figure in Kyoto art world thanks partly to his longevity. Eigaku died at the age of 79. His adopted son, Eisho succeeded him to become the tenth family head. Sukechika NAGANO was one of Eigaku's pupils. It is said that Tanji SATO, an official painter of the Iwakuni domain, Shoryu KAWADA of the Tosa domain and Hozen EIRAKU of Kyo yaki (Kyoto style ceramic art) also studied painting under Eigaku.