A very rare and early woodblock by Ohara Koson, most known for his kacho-e (bird and flower prints), this pre-1910 print was published by Kokkeido Publisher in an unusual format with a composition of two sedan bearers following a torch bearer, overlooking a river and homes in the distance at the base of a mountain, in soft subtle shades of gray/sepia. Strangely printed with only the two margins (top and right), you can see the kento mark in the lower left corner attesting to it not being trimmed.
A very rare and unique early piece by Ohara Koson.
The Woodblock Print
The woodblock print measures approximately 14.25″ by 4.6″ putting this tanzaku (pillar print) around the hosoban size. As mentioned it is in very fine condition to excellent condition, especially for the age. Intact margins (2 as is normal), along with a clean verso. Superb bokashi shading to sky and water, fine detailing. Some toning to the paper, but even.
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.