Kanō Hōgai’s Merciful Mother Kannon

“Merciful Mother Kannon”

Kanō Hōgai (1828-1888) was born in the house of a painter who was a purveying painter to the Chofu Clan and was blessed with the talent for painting from a young age. While belonging to the Kanō school and acting as a painter of the shogunate, he learned ink paintings such as Sesshu.

When he was 54 years old, he met Fenollosa who appreciated Japanese paintings. Hōgai began to aim for the creation of new Japanese painting incorporating techniques such as aerial perspective and bright contrast.

“Merciful Mother Kannon” is his last work which he painted until 4 days before the death. The painting is famous as his masterpiece, and it is said that modernization of Japanese painting began from this work. It is an important work in the history of Japanese art.

The figures are newborn baby and Kannon. The Kannon, wearing a flowing golden robe and the appearance on auspicious clouds, pours holy sweet water. The subject is Oriental, but the technique which he used was Western style. 

Ernesto Fenollosa praised “Merciful Mother Kannon” as “being on a par with the Virgin Mary”

Title:Merciful Mother Kannon


Author:Kanō Hōgai


Own:Tokyo National Univ. of Fine Arts and Music

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