Kano Tanyu (狩野探幽)

Tanyu KANO (March 7, 1602 [January 14, 1602 by the old calendar] - November 4, 1674 [October 7, 1674 by the old calendar]) was a painter of the Kano School during the Edo Period. He was Takanobu KANO's son and Eitoku KANO's grandson. His Hogo (Buddhist name) was Tanyusai, and Imina (a name not said out of respect while someone is alive) was Morinobu. He was a genius painter who bloomed early.


He was born in Kyoto in 1602 as the first son of Takanobu KANO.

In 1612, he was presented to Ieyasu TOKUGAWA at Sunpu, and in 1617, he was appointed as an official painter to the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). In 1621, he relocated to Edo and made his home outside the Kajibashi Gate at Edo Castle. He was involved in the official painting project of Edo Castle, Nijo Castle and Nagoya Castle, as well as producing wall paintings in famous temples, including Daitoku-ji Temple and Myoshin-ji Temple. His designs were varied including landscapes, portraits, flowers and birds.

In 1623, he made his youngest brother, Yasunobu KANO, succeed Sadanobu Kano, the head of the Kano school, as his adopted son, and Tanyu took over the Kajibashi Kano family. Tanyu had no male heir, so he adopted Masunobu, son of the sword smith, Ryujo GOTO. Later, after he passed the age of 50, he had a son, Morimasa KANO, who took over the Kajibashi Family. However, the Kajibashi Kano Family, the direct descendants of Tanyu, were not able to produce a talented painter.

He died in 1674.

Evaluation of His Works

In his early days, Tanyu produced bold Eitoku KANO-style paintings; however, later on in his life, his major creation was the wall painting on Daitoku-ji Temple, a serene water ink drawing with a large unpainted space. Some of his picture scrolls and folding screens are painted in the Yamato-e style (classical Japanese style painting).

He was a famous painter in the Edo Period; however, in the modern era, he unjustly received less attention. In recent years, the true value of his works has been once again recognized.

His Representative Works

Wall painting at Nijo Castle (Important Cultural Property) - Nijo Castle Ninomaru Palace

Wall painting at Nagoya Castle (Important Cultural Property) - Nagoya Castle Honmaru Palace

83 Wall paintings in the abbot's chamber of Daitoku-ji Temple (Important Cultural Property) - Abbot's chamber of Daitoku-ji Temple

Genji Monogatari-zu Byobu (folding screen with scenes from The Tale of Genji) - The Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan

Small sketches by Tanyu - Held by several museums and collectors (including Hyakusui HIRAFUKU).

He has produced many landscapes of Japan and reproduced outstanding pictures of China, old and new, in miniature with a large number of these still remaining. The originals of some of his reproductions of old pictures were lost, making his reproductions valuable for Japanese Art History research.

Shihon-chakushoku Toshogu-engi (illustration on paper canvas from Toshogu Shrine) (Important Cultural Property - Nikko Toshogu Shrine

Painting of hawk on pine tree

Landscape painting

Works that no longer exist

Wall painting at Edo Castle

Wall painting at Osaka Castle