Untitled (Five White Egrets)

Artist: Shosan (Koson) 1877 – 1945
Title: Untitled, five white egrets
Nation: Japan
Creation date: 1927
Medium: Ink on paper, color woodcut
Collection: [Black] Print Collection, Art History Dept, Cummings Arts Center, Connecticut
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 

Description: Five elegant egrets and nestled in a pack formation under the cold of the gentle snow. The gradient of Prussian blue fades on the lower half of the print, making for the illusion of an icy bank where the birds are planting their feet. The bird’s white feathers are created by an imprint that creates a delicate texture of individual wing feathers throughout the whole of the print. Shosan is known for his naturalist style of artwork and often uses watercolor washes. 

Analysis: There are a lot of similarities between the Untitled, Five White Egrets print and Japanese paintings through the linkage to nature as primary subjects. Specifically, the tradition of creative narratives with animals as protagonists is found in both forms of paper artwork. I’m reminded of the Japanese painting Tale of a Strange Marriage, by artist Ukita Ikkei, where foxes inhibit human-like behaviors in an undeniable parallel– wearing human clothing and behaving in mischievous ways. In this print, the human-like similarities are much subtler; Yet, the egret’s intimately huddling together in the snow, resembles a feeling of familial closeness. While each egret is similar in representation, they each share a unique personality in the way they present themselves in the print. The leader of the group seems to be the egret farthest to the left, standing tallest with its neck stretched above the flock with a sense of both dominance and protective nature. You can see the range in personalities in the egrets while comparing the previous bird, to the egret farthest in the back, who is curled into itself and expressing a shyness.

Photo References: https://library.artstor.org/#/asset/CONNASIAN_106310616930
References: Connecticut College Japanese Prints Collections inventory, Artstor

Author: Hannah Smith

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