This selection of landscapes and bird-and-flower prints is a small sampling of works by one of the best-known Japanese printmakers of the 19th-century: Hiroshige.
Hiroshige created evocative landscapes that appealed to both tourists and collectors in his own time. He and his equally famous but older contemporary, Hokusai (1760-1849), were both exploring the subject of landscape in prints for the first time around 1830. While Hokusai was producing his famous series of “Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji,” Hiroshige began work on some of his early depictions of Edo (modern-day Tokyo). These are included in this exhibition, along with several compositions from Hiroshige’s last series, “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.”
His first great commercial success came with the publication of the series “Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido” (Eastern Sea Route). According to tradition, in 1832 the artist accompanied the shogun’s (military dictator’s) detachment of retainers on its journey from Edo to Kyoto for the annual presentation of a white horse to the emperor. Whether the story is true or not, these lively depictions of famous spots, of travelers on the road, and of unusual events associated with specific places made Hiroshige’s mark as a landscape printmaker. He produced another series that documented the inland road between Edo and Kyoto, the “Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kisokaido,” then followed it by new versions of the Tokaido compositions and by numerous other landscape subjects.
Beginning around 1830, Hiroshige also experimented with bird-and-flower compositions for the first time. The beautiful examples included in this exhibition are drawn from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Collection of Bird-and-Flower Prints. Most striking among these are the prints designed to be made into flat fans. The examples shown here apparently survived because they were never used for their intended purpose.
Deborah Del Gais