Kanō Isen'in Naganobu, Twelve Famous Places in Japan, an album of 12 paintings

Late Edo period, AD 1802-16

These paintings come from an album labelled simply 'Sansui gajō' ('Landscape paintings'). However, their pictorial references seem too precise for them to be simply 'landscapes'; they are, rather, 'pictures of famous places' (meisho-e), a tradition in Japanese art dating back to the Heian period (AD 794-1185). Shown here is Mt. Yoshino (near Nara) in springtime, covered in blossoming cherry.

Kanō Isen'in Naganobu (1775-1828) was the seventh generation head of the Kobikichō branch of the Kanō school in Edo (modern Tokyo). He was an artist of considerable talent, and was official painter to the shōgun. For this work he employed mild, graceful brushwork and colouring, drawing on an older style of Yamato-e. The secret of his success was said to have been that he combined the qualities of gakuga (learned artistic ability), highly prized by the Kanō school, with shinga (instinctive artistic ability), which was customarily regarded as less important.

Each leaf of the album bears the signature 'Isen Hōen hitsu' ('Painted by Isen of hōgen rank') and a seal 'Naganobu'. Naganobu was awarded the title hōgen ('Eye of the Law') in 1802 and further elevated to hōin ('Seal of the Law') in 1816.

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More information


I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)


Height: 200.000 mm
Width: 300.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP ADD180 (1945.11-1.055.1)


Bequeathed by Oscar C. Raphael


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