Within a dynamic composition unified by striated streams of water sweeping diagonally across the background frolic two young tigers, their teeth bared and claws extended in mock battle. Although the artist clearly intended a naturalistic presentation of his subject, his genius for decorative design manifested itself in the delightful patterns of the tigers’ pelts and the coloration of especially their eyes. Also noteworthy here is the difference in style between the tigers and their respective backgrounds, with the former painted in great detail and realistic colors while the latter is done in ink only with minimal detail, an approach which throws due emphasis on the most important aspects of the paintings.
Kusumoto Hakkei, called So Shizan and Shizan, was the adopted son of the well-known Edo master So Shiseki (1715-1786). While there is a close stylistic relationship between the two masters, a similarity which extends even to the calligraphy, Shizan’s work is lighter, with a more playful mood and great decorative impact, suggesting the direction in which his personal style evolved during his years of maturity.
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