The Mystery of the Japanese Silk Tiger Paintings

   Posted by: René   in Author, Public, Tigers

Do You Know Who Painted these Tigers?

My pair of wonderful Japanese paintings on Silk.
Three Tigers, two on one, and a magnificent male on the other.
They stalk you right out of a bamboo jungle.
Though perhaps they will not eat you. Right away.

First Image, the pair of silk paintings together: (These will be ‘LightBoxed’, so just click on the thumbnail and a lightbox will popup. Then click on either side of image to go forward or back, or scroll down to bottom to close. These are Large Graphics for detail-might take a long time to load.)Pair of Japanese Silk Paintings of Tigers

Signatures on Solo Tiger Painting

I posted these photos of my pair of Japanese Silk Paintings to assist in identifying the artist.
What we know so far:

  1. Purchased in 1965 from a dealer on Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, California.
    • Soldier brought them back from Japan after WWII.
    • The pair are on silk panels, with real gold paint, size 18 inches by 56 inches. ( 45.72 cm x 142.24 cm)
    • The silk panels were originally mounted on paper scrolls, which fell apart from age. They are now unmounted.
  2. Two opinions from ‘Antique Experts’:
    • Early 1900’s, by either “Kazan”, or “The Artist who Paints Tigers”, approximate value in 1999 – $4,500 to $5,500.
    • The silk pattern on the photos of the signatures is a type of silk made after 1920.
  3. The ‘chop’ or the hanko is ‘Yokoyama Kazan’, but it is unlikely that he was the actual artist.
  4. Comparison of the artists styles mentioned above does not match the style of these paintings.
  5. So, it is possible that these were actually painted by an artist in post-WWII Japan, with the use of the signatures to boost the value of the paintings in those hard times.

Please DON’T recommend I contact a museum, gallery or an auction house to ask one of their experts about the paintings, or to help me identify the artist. None of them have responded to my repeated requests for assistance. I believe it is beyond their capability.

My LinkedIn connection, David Lucas, has helped me identify the signature as “Kazan”, but shares my opinion that that artist could not have painted these. He suggested I ask the LinkedIn network to assist us in solving this intriguing mystery. As he wrote me:

Although the hanko is Yokoyama Kazan, it is unlikely to be his painting for a few reasons. First and foremost it is a war-era work, possibly post-war, and too many painters copied these paintings and styles, especially to sell to American soldiers. Signatures and hanko were also copied liberally.

I don’t mean cheap whipped-out copies, but serious painters from great schools who did these copies to make a living post-war, some of whom studied with the masters from the late 1800’s and were still working post-WW2.

They’re still worth good money as excellent paintings, but they’re murder to attribute to anyone accurately.

You present an intriguing mystery, though, and everyone loves a mystery!

Put out a public question on LinkedIn–‘Are there any East Asian art experts on LinkedIn?’ And post the photo in a link to your question, and see what we get.

Keep me posted, I’m addicted already.

The pair of paintings are truly magnificent. I do need to raise funds right now, and any assistance in identifying the artist will help me get them valued by providing the missing provenance.

I believe only Japanese will be able to do this. So any Japanese LinkedIns please examine these images closely, ask your parents or grandparents if they recognize the artist’s style. That will probably be the only way to identify the artist at this point.

Another possibillty would be if someone has a similar painting in their collection, with possibly a better idea of who the artist was. But the styles have to come very close, and so far none have been found, in any gallery or museum online, so far. I have done extensive searches online as well as in books on art collections in libraries.

Why no experts from museums, auction houses or galleries have responded to my queries?

David’s comment may explain: “They’re still worth good money as excellent paintings, but they’re murder to attribute to anyone accurately.”

I invite you to join us in the Hunt to solve the Mystery of the Japanese Silk Tigers.

But I repeat: Don’t refer me to auction house, galleries, or museums unless you know an expert there actually from Japan who is Japanese to recommend.

I HAVE ALREADY BEEN THERE, done that, searched and queried every one that deals in Oriental Art. I even fruitlessly scoured the Chinese museums and galleries for a possible Chinese artist, etc., since the style and the signatures share similarities.

So Please. Don’t waste our time, yours or mine.

You can contact me through LinkedIn, or leave a comment here. To comment on this blog does require registration with a real email address, but your email address will not be revealed on this blog.

I hope you enjoy these Japanese Silk Tigers as much as I have. We used to have them in a small library with a red light on them at night. They looked like they were coming right at you out of a bamboo jungle.


This entry was posted on Friday, May 18th, 2007 at 1:26 pm and is filed under Author, Public, Tigers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

38 comments so far

Nikki Arana

Did you ever establish a value. We have an identical pair of the single male tiger. One with the left foot out and the other with the right foot out. Same signature!!

January 17th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Hi, Nikki,

a pair? both with single tigers? same signature on each?

Actually each one of mine are slightly different. So the ones that are here on my blog are indicated by the alternate or title info, just hover over each one.

What I have found out, so far, I have included in the post.

Where did you acquire yours?

January 25th, 2009 at 6:29 pm

A friend of mine has a very similar painting, with the same signature and the same inscription along the margins. I tried my best to decipher the kanji but it didn’t seem Japanese to me. There’s no hiragana or katakana and the syntax doesn’t seem to make sense. So I started to suspect that these are actually Chinese.

I showed the painting to a Japanese friend of mine (I’m an Anglo) and he came to the same conclusion. He was unable to decipher the kanji and thought that the structure seemed Chinese as well.

July 24th, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Hi, geo, I also suspected they might be Chinese, but after much research could not find any evidence of such.

August 1st, 2009 at 9:48 am

It’s also possibly Korean. The Koreans didn’t officially abandon Kanji until 1949 or thereabouts, and there were all those G.I.s there for THAT war. It sorta even has a Korean “look” to it, now that I think about it. I dunno…

August 2nd, 2009 at 9:08 am


I have a very similar painting. Also on silk. Very much like your single tiger, but the opposite foot is forward. My father was stationed in Japan and part of the occupation force just after WWII and purchased it there. The signature is slightly different and I have a different stamp. I would love to know if you have learned anything more, or if you found a contact that could help.



August 12th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

My father purchased one with a single tiger (left foot forward) while he was in Japan for R&R in 1952. The signature is the same. I’ll continue to research, and keep you advised of any additional info. I’ll share photos of same. Good Luck. THX.

September 9th, 2009 at 10:32 am

Hi, that is not Japanese nor Korean. In this case, How the kanji was written is far more important than what kanji actually says for appraisal in this case. The style of calligraphy is typical 20C (mostly 1930-1960) Chinese painting. The way the calligraphy was presented with the painting is also typical way for Chinese way. Based on the material, and style of western watercolor influence, I guess it is one of the many most recent works done by Chinese in Japan or China produced for particular target customers, possibly western tourists or GI men. Real Japanese or Korean antique painting has different colors, angles, poses, brushing traces and framing. I am sorry but I guess you would want honest opinion. My appraisal value goes $100-150 if you are lucky to find anybody who would be willing to buy it. ( I mean Asian collector who knows what he is doing)

September 12th, 2009 at 3:16 pm


I recently acquired a pair, set(?) of Silk Tiger Paintings. Viewed by our best Asian Appraiser locally, he indicated they are from Japan. We were able to locate a signature on ONE of the paintings. He also stated paintings were done “in the ’60’s”. (I had suspected ’50’s). If you could e-mail a photo of the “signtaure” on your two tiger paintings, I would be willing to “show them around” to those I know. I have a couple of friends, a dealer I know (he is from Japan), and a couple other “resources.” Your paintings are lovely!


September 18th, 2009 at 8:39 am


I recently acquired a pair, set(?) of Silk Tiger Paintings. Viewed by our best Asian Appraiser locally, he indicated they are from Japan. We were able to locate a signature on ONE of the paintings. He also stated paintings were done “in the ’60’s”. (I had suspected ’50’s) If you could e-mail a photo of the “signtaure” on your two tiger paintings, I would be willing to “show them around” to those I know. I have a couple of friends, a dealer I know (he is from Japan), and a couple other “resources.”

Your paintings are lovely!


September 18th, 2009 at 8:42 am

Would like to send you photos of two Silk Tiger Paintings that were handed down to me from my Grandparents – how can I do this?
Thank you

October 2nd, 2009 at 8:27 am

I have a lovely tiger silk painting that I acquired in the 60’s from my godparents. I don’t have any history – but it also has one right foot forward and it is coming directly towards you. May I send you a picture and you can compare it to your painting. If so, please let me know where I should send it. Thanks! Gail

January 19th, 2010 at 1:58 pm
James McCabe

Did you ever locate someone that can validate these paintings. I have 7 silk paintings and am in search of someone that can appraise. Having no luck with ASA. I’m in the Wash. DC area.
Thanks for any help.

February 1st, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I also have a painting on silk of a tiger and her cub. I do know my fater-in-law bought the painting while in Japan during the invasion of Normady. He brought it home in a cardboard tube and had it framed after he arrived back in the states. He also bought one at the same time of a peacock painted on silk. Wish I could send a picture of it and the signature to someone who knows about such paintings during that period.
I will keep watching for any post. I will leave my email address if someone is intrested in helping me with the identity of the artist.

March 21st, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Hey- also have a very well done
silk tiger painting- aprx 18 x 60
it was brought her by the first wife
of my step grandfather and that would
most likely put it here in the 20’s
Have been able to find no info-
but is ont the same style as the ones pictured
but of very good quality-

July 31st, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Try antique art dealers and collectors of Asian art. One in mind would be David Kidd, (deceased)and business partner “Morimoto” at Cafe David in Kyoto. He may or may not help you with information on this particular style of art.

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Shirrel, if you have a link for the Cafe David in Kyoto, for David Kidd and his partner, ‘Morimoto;. so many commenting here might be able to follow through for info. Appreciate your comment. thank you, René

November 16th, 2011 at 9:07 pm
Richard Vandeventer

How can I send you some photos of some Silk Tiger paintings for your input?
Please advise:

Thank you.

April 15th, 2011 at 10:18 am

We have 2 silk paintings of trees with children that my father-in-law brought back from China during World War II and are signed. how can we learn if they are of any value?
Thank you, Darlene & Mike

April 17th, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Hello Rene’
Any information on the silk tiger paintings would be appreciated. My Mother has one very similar to these. It is a least 60 years old and signed on the right side with gold writing with two tigers and bought in Japan.

July 20th, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I also have a beautiful tiger on silk, very old, framed in a gold leaf frame, and would like info on how to get it appraised.

November 2nd, 2011 at 11:49 am

I have a 17×51″ silk painting bought in 1946 in Japan by my parents who were there for the occupation. It is truly magnificent – 2 tigers in a rocky mountain setting with only black and subdued brown colors. The artistic skill in this painting is really superior to most examples I’ve viewed. Any info or links to how I can research this would be appreciated.

December 1st, 2011 at 12:34 pm

just check some of my research. likely that David’s explanation about the occupation artists is valid. soo… the value is whatever you can get. I know mine are magnificent also. but no way to truly ID the artist.

December 4th, 2011 at 11:53 am

I would guess that ALL or most of these paintings would qualify as “Occupied Japan” artifacts. Many of which are highly-prized collectibles.

December 4th, 2011 at 11:57 am

why? I’m not in the market, Ryan.

December 12th, 2011 at 6:27 pm

My father-in-law just passed away. He served
in Japan during WWII. He also brought back
a tiger painting. Single tiger in crouching position, left profile, right foot extended. There is a signature in lower right corner. Would like to get it appraised or find out who the artist is. Can someone make a recommendation?

February 27th, 2012 at 11:17 am


I have a beautiful pair of tiger silk prints. Size approx 17″ by 19″. They are in worn bamboo frames and are under glass. One tiger has the left foot out, the other the right. They both have a signature mark. The back is like old kraft paper. There is a stamp at the lower right that reads “Dittman’s, 57 West Portal Avenue, San Francisco, CA. I purchased them at a yard sale I drove by in Santa Rosa, CA in 1974. They were propped up by the mailbox pole by the driveway. The price was $3.00 for the set. They are striking and adorn our guest bedroom even today.


March 22nd, 2012 at 5:13 pm
Nancy Martin

I also own 3 tiger prints done on silk. What I know is my father inlaw bought them in hawaii during the war and had them shipped to his home in Vancouver Washington. This is all I know, would really like to know the value or how to contact someone who may know.

May 27th, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Try art museums, galleries that specialize in Japanese art. auction houses, art appraisers. good luck, let us know if you find out anything.

May 28th, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I also have the Tiger painting “Here He Comes” given to me by my father. On the back of the frame he wrote that it was painted on silk in 1930 and was from main land China.

August 14th, 2012 at 9:34 am
Tarl Warwick

I have three silk tigers from my grandfather who served in the occupation army for Japan in the Army Air Corps. I have no clue about the artist.

August 17th, 2012 at 6:43 pm
Ron Blome

I have a silk painting with a very well painted tiger on it. The right paw is forward. It is 17 in. x 42 in. and is in a bambo style frame. My uncle brought it back from Japan when the war was over. The back has plane brown paper on it. I would like to know the approximate value for insurance purpose. It is also signed in Japanese. Thank you for any help you can give me.

February 18th, 2013 at 8:16 pm

probably about $1,000 or so. but I’m no expert. and haven’t seen your tiger painting. suggest you take it to an Japanese art expert for appraisal.

March 7th, 2013 at 3:14 pm

My parents bought one in Japan @ 1952. My mother is Japanese. it was my father’s favorite “picture”. He was also stationed in Japan post WW II. It was on black silk with the tiger resting with one paw forward by some bamboo trees. The gold paint was beautiful. My house was burglarized and it was taken. Out of all the things taken, I was upset most about the painting. I could not tell my now deceased mom. For the hearing, I had written a list of the items taken and the approximate value. I wrote “priceless”.

December 16th, 2013 at 3:36 am

I have been searching for information on my silk painting of 2 tigers. I have asked Chinese friends to translate and was told by one that it was done by an old master and by another that I need to find someone who can read older writings, that they didn’t know the style. I thought maybe it as Japanese. I would love to be able to send you pictures to see if you can help. The artistry is beautiful. I haven’t found one that matches or even compares.

August 9th, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Linda, you can try to contact My LinkedIn connection, David Lucas, who gave me what I considered the most helpful info. I posted about him in the post above. otherwise reach out to any on any of your networks. I do not read or understand any of those written or spoken languages, Chinese, Japanese, Korean.
I also tried Oriental experts at antiques shows galleries, and suggest museums too.

August 15th, 2014 at 8:56 pm
Rob Picard

This is interesting I have a silk tiger with a cub in her mouth walking through bamboo this was taken from a dead Japanese soldier in the first world war and mailed back . We received it in about 1950 and i recently inherited it from my father. The signature is close to yours but there is some differences i am shocked at how similar the art is even though i believe they are from different artists . Has anyone been able to have there signature translated i am happy to keep it as a wall hanger but i would love to know the story behind it . This also still has the blood of the dead soldier on its lower side much history in this silk painting .

September 2nd, 2014 at 2:57 pm

René, I am glad stumbled upon this post. I too have a tiger painting on silk but mine has two tiger cubs underneath the tiger. The tiger has the right foot forward in mine. The signature is similar but not exact. There is no writing anywhere else on the painting other than the signature. The painting measurements are the same as yours.
Along with the Tiger I also purchased a Peacock painting on silk and it is the same size but the signature is completely different. I am going to send you some pictures to see what you think about them. Thanks for all the info posted so far.

January 3rd, 2015 at 4:04 pm

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