A spoonbill and water-grass

Artist: School of Kano Tan'yū 狩野探幽 (1602-1674)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 17th century
Ink and tint on paper
H x W (image): 101 × 37.7 cm (39 3/4 × 14 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kakemono, spoonbill

To 1904
Michael Tomkinson (1841-1921), Kidderminster, England, to 1904 [1]

From 1904 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Michael Tomkinson in 1904 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Kakemono List, L. 396, pg. 102, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Michael Tomkinson (C.L. Freer source) 1841-1921
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


A few light touches of the brush represent water and marsh grasses, while a pale ink wash defines the form of the bird and contrasts with its white plumage. From his broad knowledge of Chinese and Japanese painting styles and subjects, Tan’yu developed a distinctive new aesthetic that was a unique synthesis of the two artistic traditions. Characteristics of Tan’yu’s influential style appear in this painting, particularly in the use of ink to suggest rather than to describe physical form.

Tan’yu began his artistic training in Kyoto but moved to Edo in 1614. Years later he became a leading artist of the Kano school, a lineage of professional painters who, since the fifteenth century, had served shoguns, members of the imperial court, and other elite patrons. He rose to become the head of the Bureau of Painting (Edokoro), and his branch of the Kano school received major official commissions.

Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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