Japanese art from the Edo period , £9.99
Height: 153.5 cm
Width: 352.8 cm
Purchased with the support of the Art Fund
Asia JA 2006.4-24.01
Maruyama Okyo, Tigers Crossing a River, a six-panel folding screen
The scene shown on this screen follows an ancient Chinese legend, which is a kind of mental puzzle. When a mother tiger crosses a river with her three young cubs she has to be careful not to leave a ferocious one alone with either of the other two. How does she do it? In this painting the ferocious cub is the one on the right bank.
Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-95) was the most influential painter of his generation. The Maruyama-Shijō school that he set up became the dominant new style in Kyoto and Osaka, and also spread to Edo (Tokyo). Ōkyo’s revolutionary style was based on the suggestion of space in a picture, learned from European perspective, coupled with a belief in ‘painting from life’ (shasei). He probably never saw a live tiger, but instead worked from imported Chinese paintings and tiger skins. This may explain why his tigers often seem so cat-like.
Experts generally agree that Ōkyo was probably assisted in this painting by senior pupils, notably Gen Ki (1747-97). There are no other gold-leaf screen paintings of tigers by Ōkyo from his mature period currently known, making this work particularly significant. It was formerly in the collection of silk trader, Hara Sankei (1868-1939).