The Kingfisher is common theme in Japanese painting, depicted many times over by various artists. While most iterations insinuate a moment of anticipation, a bird anxious to leap into water and catch a fish, this one implies a moment that has passed. This bird’s dark and angular feathers suggest wetness, as if it has just disappointedly returned to its branch after a failed attempt towards dinner. In just a few brushstrokes Ganku expresses the pang of disappointment after an unsuccessful hunt, but somehow also captures the instantaneous evaporation of the disappointment. Ganku felt the pulse of a fleeting moment, and captured the world within it.
About the Artist
Kishi Ganku was born in Kanazawa in either 1749 or 1756, and died in 1838 (there is a conflict in records of his birth.) He came to Kyoto in 1773. Ganku did not receive formal artistic training, but he learned by studying works by the masters of the Kano school, explored the Nanpin style (a style named for the 18th-century Chinese painter Shen Nanpin) as well as "naturalism" under Maruyama Okyo and Matsumura Goshun. Later, he founded the Kishi School, a style that integrated all that he learned. In 1784, he entered the retinue of Prince Arisugawa, and the following year he was given the name Garakunosuke from the prince. He used that name to sign this work.