Rough Waves | 17th – 18th c. | Japanese hanging scroll



Anonymous (17th/18th century)

“Rough Waves”

Ink and color on silk.


Image – H. 16” x W. 14” (41 cm x 35 cm)

Scroll – H. 43” x W. 16” (110 cm x 40 cm)

Seal: Kansai


A heavily atmospheric fan-shaped painting capturing a fog rising over a deep and turbulent sea. Bearing a seal reading Kansai, it is possibly the work of Arisaka Kansai. Kansai was a Kano school artist who studied under Kano Tsunenobu (1636-1713). He was known to be active during the Shotoku era (1711-1716). Kano Tsunenobu visited the subject matter of rough waves in his well-known pair of six-fold screens held in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, ‘Waves and Waterfowls’. He also paints waves as a landscape feature in number of more intimate works such as the album held in Harvard Art Museum.

More than the formalised and somewhat conventional nature of Tsunenobu’s waves, this work brings to mind early Chinese paintings. In particular the ‘Water Album’ by the Song Dynasty painter Ma Yuan (c.1160-1225). In those eleven extant leaves he created one of the most exquisite pictorial studies of the movement of water known. Perhaps the artist Kansai was inspired by a similar Chinese painting of the Song period held in a Japanese collection. Perhaps he was asked to make a copy of such a painting, a common practice among artists of the Kano school.