Tigers are not found in Japan, but as they were a common theme in Chinese art, they were taken up as a popular painting subject in Japan. Much of East Asian visual art works according to a set schema of combined motifs. The tiger is customarily depicted with bamboo, supposedly as it is the only animal capable of negotiating the dense thickets of this plant. The combination represented a harmonious society and was favoured by the warrior class for painting schemes within their mansions and castles.
This small sketch is signed by Ishibashi and dated summer 1897. There is something awkward about the pose of the tiger, showing the young painter, aged 22, still struggling to master the animal's form. While the tiger is seated, with rear legs firmly on the ground and tail wrapped around, the forepaw seems to indicate movement forward. The expression on the tiger's face seems to be one of suspicion or concern. The diagonal stripes of ink above suggest slanting rain, buffeting both bamboo and beast.
This sketch is one of approximately two hundred in the World Museum's collection, covering a wide range of subject matter, and recording how Katei's pupils perfected various motifs so that they could paint the final work on silk without hesitation or mistake.