Artist: Shibata Zeshin (柴田是眞)

Print: Crows flying at sunrise

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Dates: 1887,created
Dimensions: 9.5 in,9.25 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: woodblock print

Signed: Eighty-one year old Zeshin
(Hachijuissae Zeshin)

Related links: Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna; The Freer/Sackler; Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, Krakow; Brooklyn Museum; Rijksmuseum; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria;

Physical description:

"Three crows are flying against a red sky. The subject of crows against a rising sun was a popular one in the Meiji era. It was treated by both Kōson and Zeshin, as well as by Zeshin's arch-rival Kyōsai. Crows in Japan are often associated with the sun, as a three-legged crow who lives in the sun was thought to cause sunspots. The extreme popularity of this theme in Meiji times, however, seems to point to the other, more nationalistic reasons, perhaps related to the role of the crow as a messenger of the Gods and a symbol of the first emperor of Japan...

The reddish sky, an effect achieved by bokashi (wiping the blocks after inking), differs from print to print."

Quoted from: The Age of Yoshitoshi: Japanese prints from the Meiji and Taishō periods..., this is Part V of the Catalogue of the Collection of Japanese Prints of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

"Compared to his lacquerware and painting, Zeshin produced relatively few prints... [He] began to include his age in signatures on work done after his late 60s."

Quoted from: The New Wave: Twentieth-century Japanese prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, p. 78.

The Muller archives indicate that this print was published by Daikokuya.


Illustrated: 1) inUkiyo-e: The Art of the Japanese Print by Frederick Harris, fig. 168. 2) in a color reproduction in The Art of Japanese Prints by Richard Illing, 1980, p. 159.

3) in color in The Legacy of Japanese Printmaking/Le Rayonnement de l'estampe Japonaise by Barry Till, the Art Gallery of Victoria, 1986, pl. #V.

4) in black and white in Imperial Japan: The Art of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) by Frederick Baekeland, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 1980, p. 145.


The original publication of this print appeared in 1888. While the publisher seal is not present it is most likely Matsuki Heikichi. Late editions continued until at least the 1920s to 1930s. This is considered by many to be Zeshin's most famous print.


There is another copy of this print in the collection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.