shikishiban, kachō-e, kachō-ga,
Very little is known about Hirose Bihō (born 1873) except that he was a designer of kachō-e, or 'animal and flower pictures." In many of his known works, he experiments with bokashi, the gradient effect in the background and on the owl's chest. This print is signed "Bihō" at lower left and bears the artist's seal. While sometimes identified as Takahashi Bihō, it is possible that he is the same artist as Hirose Bihō, as they share the same signature (see Merritt, Helen, and Nanako Yamada, "Bihō," from 'Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints," University of Hawaii: Honolulu(1992): 15.) Hirose Bihō, also referred to as Hirose Yoshikuni, also created Russo-Japanese war prints for the publishing firm Daikokuya Heikichi, run by Matsuki Heikichi, in 1904 (Marks, 274; listed as "Hirose Yoshikuni"). There is also evidence that Daikokuya Heikichi printed many shikishiban kachō-ga like this example during this period (for more information, see: Javid, Christine, "Color Woodcut Internationl: Japan, Britain, and America in the Early Twentieth Century," exh. cat. Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison(2007): 17). Such prints were probably made for export to the West and similar examples by Bihō at one time could be found in the in Robert O. Muller Collection.
This print is signed vertically descending at lower-left. Beneath the artist's signature is the artist's identifying seal, which also reads "Bihō."