Kano Masanobu (狩野正信)

Masanobu KANO (1434? - August 12, 1530?) was a painter of the Muromachi period and the founder of the Kano school.

The Kano school remained active for over 400 years from the Muromachi period till the Meiji period, and it was always the center of the Japanese painting world. The founder of this Kano school is said to be Masanobu KANO who was the official painter of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a Shogun). From old records, it is clear that Masanobu was a painter at Kyo in 1463, and by then he was thought to be already an official painter in the Shogun's court. He is said to have died in 1530, which would mean he was 97 years old.

There is a tradition that Masanobu was a descendant of Munemochi KANO from Izu. However, as the evidence below shows, it is presumed that he was from the Shimotsuke area and had some connection to the Ashikaga Nagao clan.
1) The relatives of Masanobu and his son, Motonobu, were in the Shimotsuke Province (present day Tochigi Prefecture); 2) Masanobu's early work "Kanbaku-zu"(Viewing a Waterfall) was left at Chorin-ji Temple, Ashikaga City, Tochigi Prefecture; 3) the above mentioned "Kanbaku-zu" has the note 'Donated to his highness Kagenaga NAGAO.'

At Kyo, he appears to have had Sotan OGURI, the official painter in the Shogun's court, as his teacher. In 1483, he was in charge of the partition wall paintings of the Higashiyama mountain retreat built by Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA.

"Shu Moshuku Airen-zu" (Zhou Maoshu Appreciating Lotuses), which was based on a Chinese historical event, is said to be his best known work amongst those that still exist. Historically, other famous works include "Sansui-zu" (Landscape) at the Kyushu National Museum, and "Gaika-Hotei-zu," which is privately owned. Daitoku-ji Temple Shinjun-an's "Chikuseki-Hakkaku-zu" (bamboo, stone and crane) (Six-paneled folding screens) is also traditionally said to be Masanobu's work, even though no signature stamps exist.

Judging from existing works, many of his pieces were done in the Kanga style (Chinese style painting, as opposed to the colorful Yamato-e Japanese style paintings) using the suiboku ink-wash method. However, amongst them, "Shu Moshuku Airen-zu" is a plain picture, which has a large blank space at the top, and the green color of the big willow tree in the foreground is impressive. This looks quite different to his other works. There are also some Buddhist paintings such as "Monju-Bosatsu-zu" (Manjusri Bodhisattva) (The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma), and he is thought to have painted different subjects and different styles as an occupational painter.

Main Work
Shu Moshuku Airen-zu (Kyushu National Museum) National Treasure
Gaika-Hotei-zu (Privately owned) Important Cultural Property
Kanbaku-zu (Chorin-ji Temple, Tochigi Prefecture) Important Cultural Property
Sansui-zu Sofuku (a pair of scroll pictures) (Kyushu National Museum) Important Cultural Property
Sansui-zu (Privately owned) Important Cultural Property
Chikuseki-Hakkaku-zu (Daitoku-ji Temple Shinju-an, Kyoto Prefecture) A painting attributed to Masanobu, Important Cultural Property, on loan to Kyoto National Museum