Masayoshi (1764 - 1824)

Two Gray Starlings

Series: Kaihaku Raikin zui (Compendium of Birds Imported from Overseas)
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: c. 1790
Size (H x W): 9.5 x 14.75 (inches)
Seals: Kitao Masayoshi
Signature: Keisai sha
Condition: Very good color and impression, overall light surface soiling and wear.

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In this print, Masayoshi pairs two gray starlings with the berries of the loquat tree. As the bird on the right grabs a berry with its beak, white fringe of feathers standing up atop the crown of his head, Masayoshi visually plays off the characters for “starling” in Japanese, which also mean “white-haired old man.” Other impressions of this print can be found in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

About the artist

Masayoshi worked as both a painter and printmaker. He studied first under Shigemasa Kitao, followed by Eisen’in Kano in the 1790s. Masayoshi’s printed works, ranging from single sheet prints to illustrated books, were produced under the go, or artist name, Masayoshi. He assumed the name Keisei Kuwagata in 1797 when he was appointed the official painter of the regional lord of Tsuyama. During this period, Masayoshi worked mainly in a Kano style, though he completed some printed albums as well. He also produced ryakuga-shiki manuals, which taught aspiring artists to paint in a quote, "abbreviated style".