The latest exhibition at the Suntory Museum of Art commemorates the 250th anniversary of the birth of Tani Buncho — a painter, connoisseur and art historian of formidable energy and with an insatiable drive for knowledge. Of samurai lineage, Buncho underwent foundational art training in Kano School painting under the tutelage of Kato Bunrei (1706-82), but subsequently expanded into literati painting, the Nagasaki School, yamatoe (Japanese nativist painting), Buddhist art and Western pictorial techniques.

The exhibition opens with a selection of paintings that establishes the curiosity and versatility of this remarkable painter. The finely wrought "Blue and Green Landscape" demonstrates Buncho's research of Chinese academic painting, while "Li Bai Watching a Waterfall," energetically brushed in liberal quantities of heavy ink, is a persuasive exercise in Ming Dynasty literati painting.

Buncho was also keenly interested in ranga or "Dutch painting." The original for Buncho's "Copy of Willem Van Royen's Birds and Flowers Painting" was one of five Dutch oil paintings requested by the shogun Yoshimune from the Dutch East India Company in 1722, which he bequeathed to Rakanji Temple in Edo (Tokyo) a few years later. It is thought that Buncho based his version on another copy made by fellow painter Ishikawa Tairo in 1796.