Kano Tan’yu was born in 1602 AD, and was the grandson of Kano Eitoku. At the age of 19, Kano Tan’yu became the most successful member of the Kano School by becoming the shogun’s painter-in-residence. As the painter-in-residence, he was ordered to decorate castles, which are now famous today. With this, his work joined a decorative program for the main audience hall of the Ninomaru Palace. Later on, Tan’yu created a new style that was “more restrained than the grandeur popular during the preceding Momoyama era” (the Metropolitan Museum Source 4). With this new style, he added a renewed enthusiasm in painting by just using one color of ink. As he grew older, he enjoyed access to the most important art collections and exhibits during his time. This was considered a privilege to have access, as it benefited his ancestors’ work.
The scroll begins with a view of the West Lake, near Hangzhou in China, famed for the beauty of its scenery. Stretching across the water is the dyke, with its famous drum bridges, said to have been built when the poet Su Dongpou was prefect of the district. The hills and buildings surrounding the lake are painted in the formalshintai style of brushwork, with sharp, precise lines. The scroll continues with another landscape, but this time employing the ‘informal' sōtai style of soft ink washes. There is then an abrupt change, to plants and insects done in 'semi-formal' gyōtai mode, followed by scenes of lucky gods, and a hunter. Finally comes the scene illustrated here of the demon-queller Shōki, sitting astride a Chinese mythological lion (Japanese: kara-jishi). This composite approach allowed Tan'yū to demonstrate to feudal patrons his mastery of a variety of subjects and styles within a single work. (British Museum Source 7)