Kano Eitoku

From SamuraiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search
For Kanô Eitoku (1814-1891), see Kanô Tatsunobu.

Eitoku was the son of Kanô Shôei (1514-1562) and carried on the Kanô school of painting as established by Kanô Masanobu (1434-1530). He has been described as "the most celebrated painter of his time"[1], and is indeed celebrated today as one of the greatest painters of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

Eitoku was likely tutored at a young age by his talented grandfather Kanô Motonobu (1476-1559), who introduced him to shôgun Ashikaga Yoshiteru in 1552, and by his father Kanô Shôei. In 1566, alongside his father, Eitoku produced a number of paintings for the Abbot's Quarters of the Jukôn-in in the Daitoku-ji, as a commission for Miyoshi Yoshitsugu, steward of the Hosokawa clan. Though Shôei was still head of the school at this time, Eitoku was very much a rising star, and was given some of the more important and prominent sections of the space to decorate. In these paintings and other works, strongly informed by those of his father and grandfather, Eitoku innovated in various ways, creating new distinctive elements of style which would come to define, in part, Momoyama period art. One of these innovations was the placement of heavy tree trunks not where they would echo or blend in with the wooden posts of the architecture, but in boldly different parts of the composition; other compositional methods were used to imply a deeper space than previous paintings had, drawing the viewer in.

Eitoku was commissioned by Oda Nobunaga in the 1570s to produce all the wall paintings (shôhekiga) for Azuchi castle, and afterward produced works for the Jurakudai and Osaka castle for Toyotomi Hideyoshi, as well as for the Imperial Palace; commissioned flowed in from a number of daimyô as well.

Eitoku, like all top-level Kanô artists, worked alongside a number of pupils and other fellow artists, completing works as an atelier or workshop, despite the works being signed only by the master. Even so, it is said that he found himself so busy with these commissions that he no longer had the time to produce the kind of detailed works he was once known for; a highly detailed rakuchû-rakugai-zu byôbu ("Scenes In and Around the Capital" Screen) by Eitoku was given as a gift by Oda Nobunaga to Uesugi Kenshin in 1574. In order to better accommodate the large and numerous compositions now expected of him, Eitoku developed a new style and painting method using great bold strokes and sometimes brushes made of straw rather than hair.

In 1588, Eitoku began restoring the dragon ceiling painting at the Tôfukuji originally created by Minchô in the late 14th century.

Eitoku died suddenly in 1590 and many of his unfinished projects, including the Tôfukuji dragon, were completed by his pupil Kanô Sanraku, though it was his son, Mitsunobu, who succeeded him as head of the school[2].


  • Initial text from Sengoku Biographical Dictionary (Samurai-Archives.com) FWSeal & CEWest, 2005
  • Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. pp255-257.
  • Sasaki, Johei. "The Era of the Kano School." Modern Asian Studies 18:4 (1984).
  1. Sasaki. p648.
  2. Mason. p257.