Eagle Perched on a Cliff

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Eagle Perched on Cliff

attributed to Ohara Shōson, unknown date

Ohara Koson (Shōson) (1877-1945)

IHL Cat. #2239

About This Print

This untitled print of an eagle perched on a cliff on a gray wind-swept day in winter, is attributed to Koson by the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art and is stamped as such (see below) on the presentation folder for this print, as sold by Robert Muller's Robert Lee Gallery.  The print is also seen attributed to the shin hanga artist Shoda Kōhō (1870-1946), but I think this unlikely. It does not appear in Crows, Cranes & Camellias: The Natural World of Ohara Koson 1877-1945, the closest we have to a catalog raisonné for the artist. This print has a small MADE IN JAPAN ink stamp on verso.

The fact that Muller's gallery attributed this unsigned or sealed print to Koson, however, does not ensure its accuracy, nor does the Smithsonian attribution, which is almost certainly based on Muller's.  The following paragraph from Crows, Cranes & Camellias may be instructive in understanding the existence of unsigned prints during the first part of the 20th century and the broader disorderly state of the shin hanga publishing world.

Plagiarism seems to have been common in Koson's time. Publishers in the early decades of the 20th century apparently had no respect for an artist's intellectual property, and used signatures and seals at their own volition. We see several examples of this in connection with the American collector Robert O. Muller (1912-2003), who had an extensive Koson collection... After Muller's death, however, several important facts came to light. First, Daimaru Book Company in Osaka printed multiple Koson designs in 1938 for the Shima Art Company, which Muller acquired just before the beginning of the war. Second, Muller himself ordered 30 Koson reprints to be made from new blocks by the Adachi Printing Company in Tokyo, after the war and after Koson had passed away. In fact, Muller had piles of the same prints ordered from Japan (often with a 'made in Japan' stamp on verso). The publication of many of these prints is unfortunately unknown.1

Muller re-opened his Robert Lee Gallery, originally opened in 1940 in New York City, in 1947 in Newton Connecticut.
It is possible that this collection's print was part of the original inventory of the store, largely acquired from the Shima Art Company in 1940.

1 Crows, Cranes & Camellias: The Natural World of Ohara Koson 1877-1945, Amy Reigle Newland, Jan Perrée, Robert Schaap, Hotei Publishing, 2001, p. 169.

Print Details
 IHL Catalog #2239
 Title Eagle Perched on Cliff (unititled)
 attributed to Ohara Koson (1877 - 1945)
 not signed
 no seal
 Date unknown date
 Publisher unknown
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - slight toning; mounted in original presentation folder.
 Genre shin-hanga (new prints)
 H x W Paper 8 7/16 x 3 5/8 in. (21.4 x 9.2 cm)
 H x W Image 8 7/16 x 3 5/8 in. (21.4 x 9.2 cm)
 Collections This Print Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art S2003.8.2000
 Reference Literature

last update:
5/30/2020 created