Reader Collection > Exhibitions > Japanese Ukiyo-style Bird Prints














The term ukiyo-style is the name given to a style of art that was popular with Japanese townsmen in the eighteenth and ninteenth centuries. During this period art was an important source of visual entertainment and a primary objective of ukiyo-style art was to be especially entertaining. Many of the purchasers of ukiyo-style art lived for the moment, continuously seeking to be entertained. The impermanence of life was their justification for this lifestyle and the word ukiyo, meaning floating world or impermanence, is the name now used to describe forms of entertainment enjoyed by practitioners of this lifestyle. 

To make pictures entertaining ukiyo-style artists drew their subjects in an idealistic rather than realistic way. For bird subjects, artists exaggerated prominent features using a bold, black outline.  Any additional colors were each applied evenly within this outline which made the bird standout from the background but also made the bird look two-dimensional (versus three-dimensional achieved by applying color unevenly). The colors used were not entirely true-to-life for two reasons. First, true-to-life dull colors were less entertaining than brighter colors. Second, printed ukiyo-style pictures were intended to be a relatively inexpensive source of entertainment and using multiple colors to replicate a bird’s complicated color scheme would have increased the price, making the print less attractive to print purchasers.

This virtual exhibition provides fifty examples of ukiyo-style bird prints selected from the Reader Collection of Japanese Art. To provide representation from the entire period of ukiyo-style bird printmaking (i.e., early 1700s to late 1800s) prints were chosen by fifty artists who were active during different parts of this period. The fifty prints are arranged chronologically below. Twenty-seven of these prints were sold individually and the other twenty-three were included in picture books. The title and publication date of these picture books are given, where appropriate, along with the name of the artist and the bird depicted in each of the fifty prints.


Additional Reading  

Bell, David. 2004.Ukiyo-e Explained. Global Oriental, Folkestone, UK.    Hockley, Allen. 2003. The Prints of Isoda Koryūsai, Floating World Culture and Its Consumers in Eighteenth-century Japan. University of Washington Press, Seattle.










1   Hawk (Accipiter sp.) by Kiyomasu Torii, early 1700s, 305 x 540 mm




2   Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) by Shigenaga Nishimura, early 1700s, 155 x 310 mm











3   Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus) by Masanobu Okumura, early 1700s, 160 x 325 mm



4   Scops owl (Otus sp.) and Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus) by Toshinobu Okumura, early 1700s, 170 x 340 mm











5   Little egret (Egretta garzetta) by Harunobu Suzuki, late 1700s, 215 x 280 mm



6   Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus) by Koryūsai Isoda, late 1700s, 160 x 230 mm











7   Blue magpie (Urocissa erthyrorhyncha) by Shūchō Tamagawa, late 1700s, 75 x 350 mm



8   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Hyakki San’emon, late 1700s, 205 x 280 mm












9   Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) by Utamaro Kitagawa, late 1700s, 175 x 260 mm



10   Crow (Corvus sp.) by Gakutei Yashima, early 1800s, 190 x 205 mm












11   Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) by Hokkei Totoya, early 1800s, 220 x 195 mm



12   Scops owl (Otus sp.) by Shumman Kubo, early 1800s, 190 x 210 mm











13   Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer motanus) by Ichiga Oki, early 1800s, 245 x 175 mm




14   Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus) by Shigemasa Kitao, included in Shashin Kachō Zue (Naturalistic Pictures of Flowers and Birds), 1805-27, 310 x 220 mm










15   Green pheasant (Phasianus versicolor) by Hidemaro Kitagawa, early 1800s, 180 x 210 mm



16   Cockatoo (Cacatua sp.) by Toyohiro Utagawa, early 1800s, 165 x 220 mm












17   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Hokuun Katsushika, included in Hokuun Manga (Sketches by Hokuun), 1824, 155 x 225 mm



18   Top – Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis); Bottom – Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) by Toyokuni Utagawa, included in Toshidama Fude (New Year’s Brush), 1830, 160 x 225 mm











19   Hawk (Accipiter sp.) by Eizan Kikugawa, early 1800s, 245 x 730 mm



20   Hawk (Accipiter sp.) by Tsukimaro Kitagawa, early 1800s, 235 x 355 mm












21   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Eisen Ikeda, early 1800s, 260 x 190 mm




22   Japanese bush-warbler (Cettia diphone) by Koji Shōsō, included in Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), 1832, 310 x 230 mm









23   Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) by Hiroshige Utagawa, early 1800s, 175 x 380 mm



24   Lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus) by Kunisada Utagawa, early 1800s, 105 x 155 mm












25   Japanese grosbeak (Eophona personata) by Hokusai Katsushika, mid-1800s, 225 x 340 mm




26   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Taito II Katsushika, included in Kachō Gaden (Drawing Methods for Flowers and Birds), 1848-9, 150 x 220 mm











27   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Yoshikazu Utagawa, mid-1800s, 85 x 245 mm



28   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Kagematsu Utagawa, included in Dokushū Mōhitsu Etehon (Practice Book of Brush Painting for Self Learning), mid-1800s, 125 x 175 mm











29   Java sparrow (Padda oryzivora), domestic fowl (Gallus gallus) and Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus) by Hokuju Katsushika, included in Kachō Sansui Hokuju Gafu (Flower Bird Landscape Picture Album by Hokuju), 1852, 120 x 180 mm



30   Japanese bush-warbler (Cettia diphone) by Shigenobu Yanagawa, included in Yanagawa Gafu Kachō Bu (Picture Album by Yanagawa Flower and Bird Part), 1856, 125 x 180 mm












31   Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) by Sūgakudō Nakayama, included in Shō Utsushi Shijū-hachi Taka (Exact Likeness of Forty-eight Hawks), 1859, 245 x 365 mm



32   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Hiroshige III Utagawa, included in Kachō Zufu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), mid-1800s, 125 x 180 mm











33   Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) by Kunisada II Utagawa, mid-1800s, 290 x 225 mm



34   Light-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis) by Yoshitsuna Utagawa, included in Ehon Kachō Soroi (Complete Picture Book of Flowers and Birds), mid-1800s, 240 x 180 mm









35   Yellow-breasted magpie (Cissa hypoleuca) by Sadahide Utagawa, mid-1800s, 310 x 200 mm



36   Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius) by Yoshitora Utagawa, mid-1800s, 205 x 145 mm









37   Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) by Sadanobu II Hasegawa, late 1800s, 290 x 230 mm  



38   Red avadavat (Amandava amandava) by Yoshiharu Utagawa, included in Shinsen Kachō Zue (Collection of Newly Selected Pictures of Flowers and Birds), 1878, 115 x 180 mm











39   Little egret (Egretta garzetta) by Kiyoshi Takizawa, included in Senryūdō Gafu (Picture Album by Senryūdō), 1879, 155 x 225 mm



40   Skylark (Alauda arvensis) by  Ōsui Asai, included in Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), 1879, 150 x 225 mm











41   Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) by Gyōsan, late 1800s, 255 x 375 mm



42   Blue magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha) and tit (Parus sp.) by Kyōsai Kawanabe, included in Kyōsai Gafu (Picture Album by Kyōsai), 1880, 190 x 165 mm











43  Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus) and black bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus) by Takematsu Takahashi, included in Sōmoku Kachō Zue (Collection of Pictures of Plants, Flowers and Birds), 1881, 240 x 180 mm




44   Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus) by Rinsai Shiba, included in Shinsen Sanjūroku Kachō (Newly Selected Thirty-six Flowers and Birds), late 1800s, 360 x 240 mm









45   Black-naped oriole (Oriolus chinensis) by Seisai Itō, included in Shunjū Nishiki-E (Brocade Pictures of Spring and Fall), 1881, 170 x 245 mm



46   Domestic fowl (Gallus gallus) by Toshimitsu Kobayashi, 1883, 225 x 350 mm











47   Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) and canary (Serinus canaria) by Shungyō Nagashima, 1888, 185 x 240 mm



48   Brown-eared bulbul (Ixos amaurotis) by Itsujirō Miwa, included in Shoshoku Hikkei Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds, a Manual for Artisans), 1890, 120 x 175 mm











49   Light-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis) by Satarō Nagao, included in Kachō Sōmoku Saishiki Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers, Birds, Herbs and Trees), 1891, 120 x 180 mm




50   Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus) by Gorō Imae, included in Kachō Gashiki (Painting Style for Flowers and Birds), 1892, 120 x 180 mm






Back to Exhibitions