Very little is known about the artist named Shoda Koho, and while he’s more known for his contributions to Hasegawa’s Night Scenes, beautiful landscapes, or pillar format Japanese Scenes on “Tanzaku”, occasionally you find a piece that surprises you.
This delicate woodblock of a bee and wisteria is one of those pieces. If not for the signature that is clearly Shoda Koho it would be natural to believe this print to be by a contemporary of Koho’s, namely Ohara Koson.
Have you ever seen a bee with such dancerly legs? That metaphor captures the spirit of this composition, with the bee dancing among the draping wisteria blossoms. The bee is the subject of this piece, placed dead-center in the composition, with the wisteria acting as a frame, hints of a landscape faded in the background. Bokashi shading, warm orange in the sky and cool blue in the waters below, complete the image but also contain and focus the viewer to that central figure, the dancing Bee.
The Woodblock Print
We have only been able to find one other instance of this print, which is when it was auctioned as part of the Robert O. Muller Estate, perhaps the largest collector of Japanese woodblocks ever. This specific woodblock is in almost pristine condition. Solid registration, beautiful vibrant color, no blemishes in the paper at all, intact original margins including the rough edge of the paper itself. Two small remnants of it being hinged to backing or matting at some point. Pre-war printing as indicated by the Made in Japan stamp on the verso.
Koho Shoda (ca. 1871-1946) was a Japanese artist associated with the shin-hanga (“New Prints”) art movement in Japan during the early 20th century. This movement was influenced by European Impressionism and its imagery focused on landscapes, women, and nature.