Utagawa Hiroshige 2

Mitsuke – View of Tenryu River: designed by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797 – 1858)

This is number thirty seven of Hiroshige’s 53 Stations of the Tokaido, originally published by Hoeido in 1833 -34.

During the 1950’s, a famous publisher, Takawizama, issued a recut series – and my print belongs to that edition. New wood blocks (based on the original design) were cut by the master carvers, and printed with traditional colours on fine hand-made paper.

I think Mitsuke is one of Hiroshige’s most evocative and successful prints. Of course, he had to make a living, and was obliged to churn out hundreds of designs – many of which were good enough for the purpose, but not of the highest standard.

Maybe fifty or so prints are works of genius. Unlike Hokusai, Hiroshige understood both the strengths and limitations of the medium – and his personality (understated, and perhaps a little melancholic) is beautifully expressed in Mitsuke. It is the creation of a poet; an impulse of the heart – which at the same time goes to the heart of the landscape.

Hokusai, I should add,  was undoubtedly a painter of genius, and a brilliant draftsman….but his woodblock designs seem to be more concerned with intellect than subject matter (or material): they are imposed on the woodblock without compromise.

That is just my view I suspect most art critics would  disagree….

2 thoughts on “Utagawa Hiroshige 2”

  1. Thank you for the context Chris. I wondered about the two foreground figures with their backs to the viewer, one with slightly bowed head. And the community away in the distance across the sand. A little more meaning given what you say.

  2. Chris, your words are so erudite about this elegant & spare composition.
    Also I liked Silent K’s observation on Hiroshiges portrayal of these working people, their figures turned to their own existence & work

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