Delicately colored, three wild pigeons stop for a "chat" next to a flowering cherry tree. The distinctive, refined gray wash allows for the bright white of the pigeons' plumage to pop from the paper.
Illustrated: Crows, Cranes and Camellias: The Natural World of Ohara Koson (Newland, Perree, Schapp. K36.9).
About the artist
Koson Ohara (aka Shoson or Hoson) was a master of early 20th century kacho-e (bird-and-flower pictures).With meticulous detail, soft color, and a palpable reverence for flora and fauna, Koson carried the genre into the modern era. Koson was born in Kanazawa with the given name Matao Ohara. He began his artistic career studying painting under the Shijo-style master Kason. Around the turn of the century, Koson became a teacher at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, where he met Ernest Fenollosa, an American collector, scholar and admirer of Japanese art and culture. Around 1905, Koson started to produce woodblock prints. Fenollosa, the curator of Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and an adviser to the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, persuaded Koson to export his bird prints to American art collectors.
Between 1900 and 1912, Koson Ohara 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.
Ten years later, Koson returned to printmaking. In 1926, Koson began designing woodblock prints for the famed Shin Hanga publisher Shozaburo Watanabe. Koson changed his name once again, this time to Hoson, when he produced designs collaboratively published by Sakai and Kawaguchi around 1930. He also served as an adviser to the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. As Koson used numerous names and seals over the years, dating his work can be difficult. Some of his woodblock prints were published in different editions with variations in color. 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, to name but a few.