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Ito Sozan


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A Comparison of Prints by Sozan and Shoson

Ito Sozan was a lesser known print designer in the large stable of artists who worked for the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo. His specialty was bird and flower prints, or kacho-e, although he also designed some bijin-ga prints. Sozan began working with Watanabe in 1919 and continued to design prints through 1926. This happens to be the same year that another kacho-e artist, Ohara Shoson (also known as Ohara Koson), started working for Watanabe. It is not known if Shoson was hired to replace Sozan, or why Sozan stopped designing prints at this time. Watanabe's 1936 catalogue included 28 prints by Sozan, but atypically, Watanabe did not provide any biographical information on him.

It is interesting to compare Sozan's prints with those of his contemporary Shoson. The artists often used the same traditional subject matter derived from Meiji era kacho-e. On the whole, Sozan's prints are not as detailed or realistic as those of Ohara Shoson, but many of them have a wonderful painterly quality. In Sozan's print, Crows and moon, the branches resemble sumi-e brushstrokes. His print, Moorhens, also bears some resemblance to a Japanese-style painting with it's dynamic brush-like lines. These prints are not only a testament to Sozan's talent as an artist, but also to the skills of the carvers and printers working for Watanabe. They translated the brushstrokes of Sozan's original watercolors into the woodblock medium.

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