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Hoson 豊邨 (AKA Koson Ohara 小原古邨)>, Japan’s leading master of early 20th century nature prints, was born in Kanazawa with the given name Ohara Matao. He studied the classical style of Japanese painting under the master Suzuki Kason, and took the art name Koson. Around the turn of the century, he became a teacher at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts where he met Ernest Fenollosa, an American collector and aficionado of Japanese art and culture. Fenollosa, the curator of Japanese Art at the Boston Museum of Art, persuaded Koson to export and sell his bird prints to American art collectors.
Between 1900 and 1912 he worked with a number of different publishers and designed a few Russo-Japanese War prints as well as genre landscapes but his passion was in bird and flower. His earliest and rarest designs were notable for their narrow formats and soft colors. All were signed or sealed Koson. A majority of them were published by Kokkeido and Daikokuya. After 1912 he changed his name to Shoson and dedicated himself to again painting.
Then in 1926 began designing woodblock prints for Watanabe. He used the name Hoson for a group of floral prints designed in the early 1930’s. He was also an adviser to the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. Koson used numerous names and seals over the years and exact dating of his work is difficult. Also, some of his designs were published in different editions with variations in colors. Koson’s reverence for the natural world is apparent in his meticulous detail and unfailing verisimilitude, which has yielded designs whose intimate beauty, remains unrivaled in the art world. His prints and paintings are housed in major museums around the world such as the Freer Gallery, Boston Museum of Fine Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art to name but a few.