Subjects - animals
The twelve Zodiac animals, Tiger, Bull, Rabbit, Monkey, Horse, Dragon, Rat, Ram, Boar, Dog, Snake and Rooster play an important role in Japanese life. The artist could become famous by just being able to depict any of these animals in a superior fashion. Jakuchu became best known for his Roosters and Sosen is always associated with Monkeys. So much so that it was reported that he really was a Monkey who took human form so he could paint.
The tiger was an imaginary animal to the Japanese. They had seen tiger skins, and thus depicted the fur with extreme reality, but it was in their attempt to round out this fur into a stalking ferocious beast, that their ability was stretched. If you have seen a tiger skin, you will notice the eye socket shrinks outward and is therefore large, contrarily, the ears shrink inward and thus are small. The nose is usually flat and their paws which when skinned become huge. All these characteristics become apparent in tiger paintings as the artist must use imagination to give life to this inanimate rug. Jakuchu, in his famous painting of a tiger actually writes and apologizes on the face of the scroll; I only paint from life, but there are no ferocious tigers in Japan so I must copy from a Chinese book.
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