Creator : Ohara Shoson – Japanese (naturalist style with watercolor washes)
Title : Egrets in Rain (Untitled)
Work Type : Color Woodblock Print
Date : c.1926
Material : Ink on Paper
Measurements : Image: 37 x 24 cm
Repository : Wetmore Print Collection, Art History Dept, Cummings Arts Center, Connecticut College, New London
Donated By : Prof. Caroline Black, Botany Dept, Connecticut College
Subject : Animal
Collection : Connecticut College
ID Number : Slide# 0026 black017
Source : Image and Original Data Provided by Connecticut College, New London
One of the many woodblock prints by Shoson, Egrets in Rain (Untitled) depicts two Egrets in flight gliding through the illusion of rain achieved by the delicate mark-making of the seemingly fading green to grey background. Branches from a willow tree simultaneously sway in the path of the egrets’ flight aiding in the movement of the composition and inform of the inclement weather experienced by the subjects. The intensity of the egret’s white feathers are complemented with slight recessions and grey markings to generate a textural component to the print. The opportunity to display the use of color is expressed in the claws, eyes, and beaks of each egret with additional expression from the top most egret with an open beak exclaiming its typical cry while in flight exposing the pink of the interior components of the egret’s beak. The representation of white egrets demonstrates their association with the elements earth, wind, and water as they are depicted overcoming an interaction of each in their state of flight. The white egret also stands as a symbol of good luck encouraging those to possibly obtain a print to display in their lived spaces as motivation to overcome difficulties with luck behind them.
Ohara Shoson (1877-1945), the most celebrated of shin-hanga artists, is accredited to have designed over 450 compositions depicting intimate views of birds in their natural settings after expanding his practice in the naturalistic modes of the Maruyama-Shijō school. Shoson’s use of watercolor washes distinguishes his naturalist style from other techniques of contemporary designers aiding in the popularity of his compositions in Western Japan. The demand for Japanese “bird-and-flower pictures” aimed to capture the spirit of nature in connection with the seasons, poetic allusions, or religious values. Birds often were used to conveyed symbolic meanings transforming the narrative of such compositions, however, these metaphoric associations were replaced with the simpler pleasures of enjoying intimate views of nature heading into the 20th century.
At least four different editions of this print exist with different Watanabe publisher seals seen in the composition, the first edition with Watanabe B type seal used approximately between 1924-1930, an edition with Watanabe E type seal used approximately between 1931-1941, Watanabe I type seal used starting in approximately 1957, and Watanabe M type Heisei seal, used from 1989 to the present.