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Unformatted text preview: ly strong brush stroke, a technique that was also adopted by the artists of the Kanò school. In addition, the Kanò turned increasingly from the painting of landscapes to flowers and birds, which provided them greater opportunity for closeup detailing and the decorative placement of objects. Although Sesshû and other Muromachi artists had earlier done scenes of flowers and birds on screens, it was the Kanò and their fellow painters of the Momoyama epoch who most fully exploited this traditional subject category of Chinese art. But what screen painting really called for was color, and it was this that the Kanò artists, drawing on the native Yamato tradition, added to their work with great gusto during the Momoyama epoch. The color that these artists particularly favored was gold, and compositions done in ink and rich pigments on gold-leaf backgrounds became the most characteristic works of Momoyama art. It has been hypothesized that this extremely free use of gold leaf, which had been known but seldom em- The Country Unified 155 ployed by artists of the Muromachi period, was partly dictated by the need for greater illumination in the dimly lit reception halls of Momoyama castles. In any case, there could hardly be a more striking contrast between the spirits of two ages than the one reflected in the transition from the subdued monochromatic art of Japan’s medieval era to the blazing use of color by Momoyama ar tists, who stood on the threshold of early modern times. The Kanò and other Momoyama artists continued also to paint in black and white, but their greatest and most original contribution to Japanese art was their heroic work in color done on screens. Many Momoyama screens are unsigned, and it is only from an analysis of their styles or from contemporary accounts that the artists who did them can with any certainty be identified. The most likely reason for this anonymity is that Momoyama screen painters often worked in teams, and no doubt it was regarded as inappropriate for a single individual to take credit for a picture done jointly by affixing his personal signature or seal to it. Tradition has it that when Kanò Eitoku did large projects, like the decoration of Nobunaga’s castle at...
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