Tigers, oxen, dragons and birds have been painted on silk or paper with elegant and energetic brushstrokes, or have been worked out in the utmost meticulous detail with the finest of paint brushes. Various schools of painting from over two centuries are paid attention to in this ever so varied exhibition.
To Japanese artists animals have been a great source of inspiration throughout the centuries. Their keen interest in ‘godly' nature is expressed in refined, natural representations and a spiritual style, reflecting the relation between man and nature. The roll paintings clearly have a social and political function in Japanese society. In the far past these roll paintings were hung exclusively in temples, later on they found their way into palaces and eventually they appeared in private residences as well.
The depicted animals symbolize different social classes within society. Japanese aristocracy, for example, willingly identified themselves with the deer because of the animal's elegance and grace, whereas Samurai recognized themselves in the hawk, being manly and disciplinary.
Other animals are known for their magical powers: such as the hare, stamping on the moon in order to generate the elixir of eternal life, and the fox, which is able to transform itself into a human being whenever it wants to mislead someone.
Mythical animals also play an important role in various legends - an example of this can be seen in the enormous influence that the rain dragon was presumed to have on the prosperity of the crops. All these different facets of Japanese Animal Painting are brought to the notice at this exhibition.
'A Brush with Animals, Japanese Paintings 1700-1950', Brill publishing house, (ISBN 978 9070216078), € 83,74 hardback edition, (ISBN 978 9070216 085), € 58,30 paperback edition
With thanks to
Society for Japanese Arts and Crafts