Kano Sanraku

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Kanô Sanraku was a prominent Azuchi-Momoyama period painter of the Kanô school, and the leading Kanô artist in Kyoto for a time after the other masters of the school relocated to Edo.[1]

Not related by blood to the Kanô masters, he was adopted into the school and the family by Kanô Eitoku, after Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whom he served as a page, noticed his artistic skill and had him placed there.

Sanraku's style has been described as a "retreat from some of Eitoku's dynamic imagery, substituting first a naturalism of expression and then a quality of elegant ornamentation"[2]. His time was marked by a slightly more intellectual or historically-minded approach both on the part of the artist and the patron, as elements or aspects of the yamato-e and kara-e (kanga) styles of the Heian and medieval periods were re-examined and revived.

Following Eitoku's death, Kanô Mitsunobu became head of the Kanô school, and Sanraku returned to a closer relationship with the Toyotomi clan. During this time, he produced works for Fushimi-Momoyama castle, and for a number of temples and shrines in Kyoto. Among his many other works, Sanraku also created a series of fusuma panels depicting scenes from the Genji monogatari, on commission from the Kujô family, though only one scene, a carriage fight from the Aoi chapter, survives, refashioned at some point into a four-fold byôbu.

Though not the head of the school, his style would prove extremely influential in shaping the Kanô style of the 17th-18th centuries.

When the Toyotomi fell following the 1615 siege of Osaka, Sanraku retreated from the art world, becoming a Buddhist monk and taking on the name Sanraku for the first time (up until then, he had been known as Mitsuyori). After a roughly four-year period of seclusion and absence from the art world, Sanraku returned to Kyoto in 1619, commissioned to produce paintings for the Imperial Palace in preparation for the occasion of the marriage of Tôfukumon-in, daughter of Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada, to Emperor Go-Mizunoo.

He died in 1635, and was succeeded as head of the Kyoto Kanô by his adopted son Kanô Sansetsu.


  • Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. pp258-259.
  1. Timon Screech, Obtaining Images, University of Hawaii Press (2012), 37.
  2. Mason. p259.