Gan Ku, Tiger, a hanging
scroll painting

Edo period, about AD 1784-96

Tiger paintings were very popular in Japan, but as the artists would never have seen a real tiger, they must have worked from skins. Gan Ku became famous for his paintings of tigers and has brought this one immediately to life with his strong imagination and skilful brushwork. The fearsome advance of the beast towards the viewer is suggested by the powerfully hunched shoulders, the placing of its feet and the tip of the tail, just visible, which all emphasize the animal's size and strength. Gan Ku has used the careful brushwork of Chinese academic painters to depict the tiger, while the setting of tree, rocks and water is in a much freer, dynamic style typical of his later ink and wash works.

Video - Gan Ku tiger

In 1784 Gan Ku entered the service of Prince Arisugawa and for this painting he uses the art-name Utanosuke which was given to him by the prince. He seems to have used this name until about 1796.

The signature reads 'Utanosuke Gan Ku', and the seals read 'Kakan' and 'Gan Ku'.

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More information


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)


Height: 1690.000 mm
Width: 1145.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP ADD79 (1931.4-27.01)



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