Hoson (aka Koson Ohara), Japan’s leading master of early 20th century nature prints, was born in Kanazawa with the given name Matao Ohara. He studied classical Japanese painting under the master Kason Suzuki, and took the art name Koson. Around the turn of the century, he became a teacher at 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 kacho-e (bird and flower prints) to American art collectors.
Between 1900 and 1912, Koson worked with a number of different publishers and designed a few Russo-Japanese War prints, as well as genre landscapes, but his passion remained with kacho-e. His earliest and rarest designs were notable for their narrow formats and soft colors. All prints 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 painting.
Then, in 1926, Koson began designing woodblock prints for the famed Shin Hanga published Shozaburo Watanabe. Koson used the name Hoson for a group of floral prints designed in the early 1930s. He also served as 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. His prints and paintings can be found in major museums worldwide, such as the Freer Gallery, the Museum of Fine Art Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, to name but a few.