It’s not a normal occurrence to come across a Koson print of which you can only find one institutional holding, no auction or retail records, and all Google results for it are reproductions. This “Quails and the Moon” print, of which we don’t know the actual original title, is one of those strange occurrences. Signed Shōson, a signature Koson used post-Kanto earthquake for Watanabe Publishing, this doesn’t have the 6mm seal that was used for later editions of Koson prints.
The Woodblock Print
This roughly o-hosoban sized print measures 7″x13″ and is in fine condition. The print has very good color, impression and state, visible woodgrain. It is unbacked and has a clean verso, as well as clean and intact thin margins. The print has a soft crease across the horizontal (middle), and there is some faint discoloring or foxing in the grass above the quails, but only noticeable upon very close inspection.
Bright colors and exceptional detail, a lovely rare print.
About the Artist
Ohara Koson (小原古邨, 1877-1945), who also went by the art names of Hoson and Shoson, began his career as the student of Suzuki Koson where he painted plants and animals between 1895-1902 gradually becoming known as a Nihonga painter (a term meaning traditional Japanese vs the increasingly popular Western style) in the Kacho-ga (nature print) genre. Briefly during the Russo-Japanese war Koson produced Senso-e (war prints), but the vast majority of his early prints (1900 -1912) were nature prints designed for the North American and European markets for the publishers Kokkeido and Daikokuya. These prints were all signed “Koson”. Between 1912-1926 Koson returned to painting, but using the name Shoson, he continued to design woodblock prints, this time in collaboration with S. Watanabe. Koson also produced prints using the name Hoson which were published by Kawaguchi between 1930-1931.
While the artists’ prints had always been sold abroad, Koson’s success was cemented as a result of the 1930 and 1936 Toledo Museum exhibitions. More prints by Koson were sold during these shows than any other artists’ due to their artistic merit and their relatively inexpensiveness in comparison with of the works of Yoshida, Shinsui, Hasui and others. Koson’s career peaked in the mid 1930’s. His work is realistic, based mainly on his own sketches and watercolors. It is estimated that he produced more than 450 designs of birds.