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Shuho
Tiger and Bamboo
1861-63
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 Longhi; 93.21

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Copyright (c) 2000, Mayumi Ishida, All Rights Reserved Last Updated: April 11, 2000