kachō-e (bird and flower picture - 花鳥絵) (genre )




Roger Keyes wrote in his catalogue of the Ainsworth Collection at Oberlin College:

"The earliest prints of birds may be the large eagles and hawks designed by Torii Kiyomasu in the early 1700s after illustrations in a late seventeenth-century hawk manual. In the 1720s pictures of birds and other animals became an established genre... in which artists could experiment with subjects and drawing styles which fell outside the then rather narrow confines of ukiyo-e.

Harunobu designed a few pictures of animals, birds and flowers, and in the 1770s his successor Koryūsai designed many more, most of them in the upright chūban format, but some as narrow upright pillar prints. In the 1770s and 1780s a number of wider upright prints called ishizuri-e were designed which were printed and hand-colored in imitation of Chinese stone rubbings. A few of these prints of landscape and bird-and-flower subjects were signed with the names of ancient Chinese painters like Su T'ang-po... or minor Japanese painters who worked in the Chinese style; one was designed in the 1770s by Shiba Kōkan. Most of these were unsigned; however, signatures of ukiyo-e artists like Harunobu, Koryūsai, and Utamaro were often added later to the unsigned prints to make them more saleable to collectors."


The curatorial files on a book by Imao Keinen at the Spencer Library of the University of Kansas notes that "This tradition originated in China, where it reached a peak during the reign of the art-loving emperor Huizong (r. 1100-1126) in the Song dynasty. Song-dynasty flower-and-bird paintings were avidly collected and emulated in Japan, inspiring new bursts of creativity in the genre over the centuries."