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Ohara Koson (Shoson): Small birds perching on grasses

Japan, late Taisho period, early 1920s


Colour woodblock print, 25 x 23.8 cm, artist's seal and signature (Koson), undated, early 1920s, rare. Fine condition with clear colours, some age discolouration to the paper which would be expected with this age.

Prints depicting birds and flowers are called kacho-e .

They have a long tradition in Chinese and Japanese painting. Hokusai and Hiroshige were the great old masters of kacho-e in the first half of the nineteenth century. Koson's depiction of birds is masterful and body details, feathers in particular, were done with meticulous care. His kacho-e prints are considered among the best portrayal of birds created in the 20th century Japan.

Ohara Koson (1877-1945) was a Japanese painter and print designer who worked at the end of the 19th century through to the mid-20th century as part of the shin hanga ('new prints') movement.


Around 1900 Koson started teaching at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, where he met Ernest Fenollosa, an American who had a great passion for Japanese art. Fenollosa convinced Koson to design prints in traditional Japanese-style for export. Koson worked under a number of names during his career, such as Shoson, and his works were largely exported to the United States and Europe due to his connection with the shin hanga publisher, Watanabe Shozaburo. In his time Koson's work was not particularly admired in his native Japan although this has now changed and there is a resurgence of interest in his pieces and an appreciation of the quality of his work.



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