2002-2003, New Acquisitions, "Enduring Vision and Beyond"


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Komai Genki (1747/49-1797)

Genki was direct pupil of Maruyama Ôkyo (1733-1795), and one of his closest followers. Under his master’s tutelage, Genki learned to sketch from nature and became particularly skilled at natural subjects and figure paintings.

This image of a tiger bears very close compositional and technical resemblances to well-known works by Ôkyo and his descendants, including Ôzui and Ôshin. Although he had perhaps never seen a live tiger, Ôkyo is said to have sketched the tiger’s likeness from an actual tiger’s pelt and, Genki, as his assistant, no doubt attended him in such studies. Here, the intricate brushwork rendering the fine individual hairs covering the animal’s entire body reveals the artist’s close attention to realistic detail and a direct indebtedness to his master’s methods.

The signature reads “Genki sha-i,” meaning literally, “Genki—rendered with care,” but signifying not just that the the artist was depicting the outer appearance of his subject, but that he was attempting to capture the true nature of the animal. This was the “realism” propounded by Ôkyo—not a photographic realism in the Western sense, but a mode of expression that would reveal the essence of its natural subject.

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