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Gan Ku, Cat Killing a Bird, a hanging scroll painting


Height: 953.000 mm
Width: 349.000 mm

Asia JA JP ADD773 (1984.3-1.01)

    Gan Ku, Cat Killing a Bird, a hanging scroll painting

    Edo period, 4th month, AD 1782

    Gan Ku (1749-1838) left his native Kanazawa in 1779 or 1780 at the age of thirty to pursue his painting career in Kyoto. He quickly came under the influence of the Nagasaki style, a Chinese academic style first introduced into Nagasaki in the early 1730s by the Chinese painter Shen Nampin. The Nagasaki style was highly decorative, taking as its subjects birds and flowers, and was very fashionable among rich patrons. The Japanese Sō Shiseki (1712-86) introduced the style to Edo (modern Tokyo) in the 1760s and 1770s, and it gradually spread to other parts of the country.

    Gan Ku frequently painted from observation of nature, giving his work a strong feeling of the living moment. Here the black and white cat has just seized the bird, knocking a petal from a bright red poppy as it does so. Two more birds perch in the banana tree above. The broad cool expanse of the leaves contrasts sharply with the brilliance and activity of the scene below. The contrived realism of the composition is typical of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), and indeed it may have been copied from an existing Chinese or Nagasaki school work.

    The signature reads 'Ransai' Ganku sha' ('painted by Ransai Ganku'). The first seal under the signature is illegible and the second reads 'Ransai' (an early art name). The third oval seal next to the cat reads 'Shōsō dokusho' ('Reading at the Pine Window'). The painting is dated 'A day in early summer (4th month), 1782'.

    L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

    I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)


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