Inside: Embark on a journey with Ohara Koson Birds: Get your hands on exquisite, free-to-print avian art that brings nature’s elegance into your home.
I stumbled upon the treasure that is Ohara Koson’s when browsing an antique store, one of those gems packed with history. As a huge cockatoo fan, my heart skipped when I found Koson’s ‘Cockatoo and Plum Blossoms’ print – it was love at first sight!
I had to know more. And let me tell you, diving into Koson’s art was like opening a treasure chest of avian beauty. Every painting felt like a little piece of magic, with birds so lifelike they could almost take flight off the canvas.
Discovering that cockatoo painting began a beautiful journey through the graceful world of Ohara Koson’s birds. I can’t wait to share this discovery with you.
Who Was Ohara Koson
Born in 1877 in Japan, Ohara Koson was the master of ‘kacho-e’ (bird-and-flower) paintings. His talent was so remarkable that he made birds look like they could flutter right off the canvas. Whether it was a majestic crane, a nimble sparrow, or a vibrant kingfisher, his attention to detail is nothing short of astonishing.
Koson’s work was heavily influenced by the Nihonga style, which sought to revive traditional Japanese art. His paintings often feature conventional Japanese themes and techniques, even while appealing to Western audiences.
Koson gained international recognition, particularly in the United States and Europe, during the early 20th century. His art was part of the Shin-Hanga movement, revitalising traditional Ukiyo-e art by incorporating Western elements such as light effects and expressing individual moods.
Ohara Koson’s Art
Ohara Koson was incredibly prolific. He produced over 450 bird-and-flower prints during his lifetime. Making him one of the most productive artists in the Shin-Hanga movement.
Koson’s bird paintings are known for their meticulous attention to detail. His ability to capture the intricate patterns of feathers, the play of light, and birds’ natural postures is particularly noteworthy.
In many of Koson’s paintings, birds are not just subjects but symbols. For example, cranes, often featured in his works, symbolise longevity and good fortune in Japanese culture.
Koson’s work continues to be celebrated today, and collectors highly sought after original prints of his work. His bird paintings are housed in various prestigious institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Ohara Koson Birds
I’ve curated a selection of Ohara Koson birds. They are in the public domain and available to download and print for FREE!
Click on the title above the bird painting you want, and a higher-resolution image will open in a new window. You can then print or save this print.
Cockatoos & Parrots
The original Ohara Koson bird print I stumbled across, two cockatoos on branch with plum blossom.
If your a fan of cockatoo’s as much as me then you’ll enjoy these vintage cockatoo prints.
A second cockatoo painting this time with a pomegranate.
A red and a blue parrot.
Check out these other vintage parrot paintings.
A yellow-crested cockatoo in a tree. This is my favourite bird as I used to see them in my garden growing up in Hong Kong.
Ohara Koson’s bird paintings often include the Kingfisher, a bird with whom he seemed to have a particular affinity. Kingfishers, known for their striking colours and fishing prowess, are a popular subject in Japanese art, often symbolizing peace and prosperity.
Koson had a way of capturing the grace of kingfishers. Whether they are depicted in flight or perched quietly, his paintings have a sense of movement and elegance that brings the bird’s behaviour to life.
Also, check out this collection of 40 beautiful Japanese Iris paintings.
One of the most noticeable elements in Koson’s Kingfisher paintings is vibrant colours. Kingfishers are naturally colourful birds, and Koson portrayed them with rich blues and greens that highlight their beauty. The iridescent plumage often contrasts with subtle backgrounds, making the birds the focal point.
In Japanese culture, the kingfisher is sometimes associated with success and determination due to its fishing abilities. Koson’s representation of kingfishers can also be seen as symbolic, reflecting these positive attributes.
Owl & Eagle Bird Paintings
Ohara Koson’s paintings of eagles and owls are also among his notable works, and they showcase his ability to capture the essence of different bird species through his art.
Koson’s eagle paintings depict these majestic birds in powerful poses, capturing their strength and regality. The eagles are usually portrayed in flight or perched high, with their sharp eyes and strong beaks painted in intricate detail.
Koson’s owl paintings often carry an air of mystery. Owls are usually associated with wisdom and nighttime in many cultures. Koson captures this essence by painting them perched on tree branches or in front of the moon, with their large eyes being the focal point, adding depth and an enigmatic allure to the paintings.
Barn owl on bare tree branch. Check out these other vintage owl illustrations.
Great Tits & Nightingale
Ohara Koson birds, great tits & nightingales.
A great tit in a paulownia tree. In Japan, the tree is associated with good fortune and is often planted when a girl is born. The wood is then used to create a dowry chest when she marries. The tree also features in the official seal of the Japanese government.
The Great Tits in Koson’s paintings are usually depicted in natural settings, often perched on branches or amidst flowers and leaves. This serves to represent the bird’s natural habitat and adds a sense of depth and context to the paintings.
Siberian Blue Nightingale near a peony under a snowy sheaf.
Ohara Koson painting of a peacock among the cherry blossom.
Herons & Cormorant
Ohara Koson’s bird paintings of herons are some of the most elegant and celebrated works in his extensive bird art portfolio.
In Japanese culture, herons are often associated with purity and grace. Koson’s portrayal of herons in a dignified and elegant manner may reflect these cultural associations.
Koson typically places herons in natural settings such as marshes, ponds, or the water’s edge, reflecting their natural habitat. The presence of water, reeds, and other elements in these paintings creates a serene atmosphere and adds context to the depiction of the herons.
Red-faced cormorant on rock.
Geese & Chicken Paintings
Geese are often seen in groups, and Koson captures this social aspect of the birds. His paintings sometimes feature flocks of geese, and the interactions and formations of the birds within the group are focal points.
Koson’s geese paintings often capture the birds in motion, whether in flight or landing on water. The naturalism and sense of movement in these paintings reflect Koson’s ability to portray birds’ dynamic nature accurately.
Cranes & Egrets
Cranes hold a special place in Japanese culture, symbolizing longevity, good fortune, and happiness, and Koson captured these majestic birds with grace and dignity.
Fishing crane in shallow water. Koson’s crane paintings often use a relatively muted colour palette, with whites, blacks, and greys for the cranes themselves, contrasted against the often more vibrant background colours.
Ohara Koson birds: excelled in capturing the elegance and grace of egrets, known for their slender bodies and long, delicate necks. His paintings often depict these birds in poised stances, reflecting a sense of tranquillity and grace.
In Japanese culture, egrets are sometimes associated with purity and beauty due to their white feathers and graceful movements.
Songbirds are special in Japanese culture, often symbolizing joy, life, and natural beauty. Koson’s songbird paintings can be seen as a reflection of these cultural associations.
Check out these American songbirds also on the site.
Other Similar Works
Apart from birds, Koson sometimes depicted other animals in his art. For instance, he created paintings featuring fish, rabbits, monkeys, tigers, and other wildlife, demonstrating his affection and keen observation of the natural world.
For other Japanese paintings of birds and flowers check out the memorizing paintings of Kono Bairei.
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