Reader Collection > Exhibitions > Moonlit Birds Drawn by 30 Japanese Artists














In Japanese art three types of birds appear more often in moonlight scenes than in daylight scenes; namely, owls, geese and cuckoos. Most owls search for food at night, aided by moonlight, so it is not surprising that Japanese artists chose to depict owls in moonlight scenes. In contrast, both geese and cuckoos hunt for food during the day so their pairing with the moon is unexpected. According to Katherine Ball1, the pairing of the moon with geese in Japanese art is due to the fact that migrating wild geese arrive in Japan in the autumn when the moon is most beautiful. As for the pairing of the cuckoo with the moon, Katherine says that “the cuckoo is a bird of nocturnal habits, but only when the moon is visible just before dawn is its presence known, and then by its cry, for its flight is so swift that it is rarely seen”.

     Thirty examples of moonlit owls (pictures 1-12), geese (pictures 13-24) and cuckoos (pictures 25-30) are included in this virtual exhibition. Each picture was drawn by a different Japanese artist. These thirty art prints are part of the Reader Collection of Japanese Flower-and-Bird Art. The following information is provided for each picture: names of the bird and artist, picture or book title (if any), date (if any), printing method and picture size.


1 Ball, Katherine. 1969. Decorative Motives of Oriental Art. Hacker Art Books, New York.










1   Ural owl (Strix uralensis) by Hiroshi Abo, woodblock print entitled still of the night, 230 x 290 mm



2   Scops owl (Otus sp.) by Shinji Nagashima, 1996, woodblock print, 115 x 150 mm












3   Blakiston's fish owl (Ketupa blakistoni) and scops owl (Otus scops) by Kōji Ikuta, intaglio print entitled Blakiston’s fish owl and scops owl, 2008, 460 x 260 mm




4   Scops owl (Otus sp.) by Kan Kozaki, woodblock print entitled moonlight, 370 x 285 mm









5   Ural owl (Strix uralensis) by Kōzō Onishi, woodblock print, 125 x 110 mm



6   Ural owl (Strix uralensis) by Keisaburō Tejima, woodblock print, 130 x 110 mm











7   Scops owl (Otus sp.) by Kōhō Ōuchi, woodblock print, 145 x 125 mm



8   Scops owl (Otus sp.) by Morikazu Maeda, woodblock print, 150 x 125 mm











9   Scops owl (Otus sp.) by Masasuke Chiba, screenprint entitled autumn, 300 x 600 mm



10   Scops owl (Otus sp.) by Gessō Yoshimoto, woodblock print, 80 x 340 mm











11   Ural owl (Strix uralensis) by H. Aihara, woodblock print, 215 x 240 mm




12   Scops owl (Otus sp.) by Yoshiharu Kimura, woodblock print entitled morning stars, 1991, 305 x 375 mm  











13   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Ryōmi, wooodblock print, 240 x 270 mm




14   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Chikanobu Kanō, woodblock print, 260 x 315 mm











15   Goose (Anser sp.) by Hokusai Katsushika, woodblock print, 175 x 385 mm



16   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Shōtei Takahashi, woodblock print, 90 x 245 mm











17   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Rinsai Shiba, included in Shinsen Sanjūroku Kachō (i.e., Thirty-six Newly Selected Flowers and Birds), 1880s, woodblock print, 360 x 240 mm




18   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Kiyoshi Takizawa, included in Senryūdō Gafu Kachō no Bu (i.e., Picture Album of Senryūdō Flower and Bird Part), 1905, woodblock print, 330 x 235 mm









19   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Sōzan Itō, woodblock print, 175 x 380 mm




20   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Bairei Kōno, included in Bairei Kachō Gafu (i.e., Picture Album of Flowers and Birds by Bairei), 1899, woodblock print, 250 x 370 mm











21   Goose (Anser sp.) by Reika Iwami, woodblock print entitled water fantasy E, 1983, 510 x 345 mm




22   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Ōkyo Maruyama, woodblock print, 350 x 220 mm









23   White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Eisen Ikeda, woodblock print, 260 x 190 mm



24   Goose (Anser sp.) by Rei Morimura, woodblock print entitled migrating birds, 2005, 135 x 155 mm











25   Lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus) by Shōun Yamamoto, woodblock print, 90 x 210 mm 



26   Lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus) by Hiroshige Utagawa, woodblock print, 120 x 355 mm











27   Lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus) by Kunisada Utagawa, woodblock print, 105 x 155 mm





28   Lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus) by Keibun Matsumura, included in Keibun Kachō Gafu Kōchitsu (i.e., Picture Album of Flowers and Birds by Keibun, Sequel), 1894, edited by Gessai Fukui, woodblock print, 205 x 275 mm











29   Lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus) by Ryōtai Tatebe, included in Mōkyō Wakan Zatsuga (Miscellaneous Pictures of Japan and China by Mōkyō), 1772, woodblock print, 390 x 265 mm




30   Lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus) by Koson Ohara, woodblock, 285 x 275 mm


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