Art of Japan and Ohara Koson: Birds, flowers, and plants

Art of Japan and Ohara Koson: Birds, flowers, and plants

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The world of kacho-ga art meant the world to the Japanese artist Ohara Koson (1877-1945). He produced other art forms through the medium of woodblock prints. However, he is rightly remembered for the kacho-ga art he produced in abundance.

This art form literally refers to images of birds and flowers. Hence, the animal world, insects, plants, the sea, skylines, and other angles to nature – including the seasons, sun, and the moon all flow naturally within the art world of Koson.

The Ota Memorial Museum of Art says, “The major characteristic of Koson’s works is how he so elegantly expressed natural motifs such as birds, animals and flowers using woodblock print techniques. Actually, at first glance his works do not look like woodblock prints. However, based on the ukiyo-e print skills honed since the Edo period, he succeeded to express pale and beautiful colors as if they were watercolor paintings. His works can be loved not only by animal lovers but also by everyone who appreciates art.”

In a past article, I say, “He worked with several publishers over his career. Thus he signed his art under the name Koson while working with the publishers Akiyama Buemon (Kokkeidō) and Matsuki Heikichi (Daikokuya). While working under the publisher Kawaguchi, he signed his art under the name Hōson. Finally, while working under Watanabe Shōzaburō – notable for Shin Hanga (New Prints) – he signed his art under the name Shōson.”

When considering other art forms in Japan – for example, rinpa and ukiyo-e – Koson’s art is limited. Indeed, Ukiyo-e includes countless subject matters: beautiful ladies, landscapes, murders, religion, war, and so much more. In the other direction, rinpa art embodies a world of high culture, finesse, and sophistication.

kacho-ga art by Koson – despite its limitations related to the subject matter and the lack of a cultural angle – is still extremely beautiful. After all, Koson brings the natural world that much closer.

He does this in a stunning artistic way – from birds flying to adorable flowers and plants!

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