Tiger and Bamboo
Ink on paper
Little is known of Shuho, the painter of
this work, but his conception of this theme clearly derives from
a painting by Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-99) located in Muryô-ji,
a small temple in Wakayama province. The practice of copying
was common in Japanese painting. Kanô school artists, for
example, trained extensively by replicating the works of their
teachers and the great masters of the past. Independent artists,
such as Shuho, followed this route as well; their copies, however,
are better described as free reinterpretations.
Rosetsu was known for his eccentric style,
and Shuho drew extensively on his highly individualistic rendition
of the tiger. However, Shuho's version, much simpler and more
compact than the original, is unique in its own way. The left-to-right
flow of the landscape elements, especially the bamboo in the
lower right corner, opposes the motion of the tiger. This creates
a tension that highlights the animal's power and muscularity.
At the same time, the tiger's facial expression, the exaggerated
size of its front paws, and the almost quizzical motion of its
tail add a sense of playfulness to the scene. These obvious contradictions
make this stunning work a truly delightful viewing experience.
Ackland Art Museum, The University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gift of Rosemarie and Leighton