Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hiroshige - One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

View of Nihonbashi Tōri I-chōme (Nihonbashi Tori I-chōme Ryakuzu) (8th Month, 1858)

Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, actually composed of 118 splendid woodblock landscape and genre scenes of mid-nineteenth-century Tokyo, is one of the greatest achievements of Japanese art. In order to protect these very special prints, the Museum can only physically display them periodically, but they are presented here in this ongoing online exhibition. The series, reproduced online in its entirety, contains many of Hiroshige's best loved and most extraordinary prints. It is a celebration of the style and world of Japan's finest cultural flowering at the end of the shogunate.

Hiroshige’s views of the city, known as modern day Tokyo, show the city and its environs in the four seasons. You can view them organized that way, browse by keyword, or browse them all in a single page of thumbnails.

The larger images also have a magnifier feature, that you may find useful although I did not - the zoom feature prevents viewing a larger image without the magnification which distorts the picture. The regular images are large enough, however, to be enjoyed on their own.

 It is a murky winter night as the Oumayagashi ferry approaches its landing on the west bank of the Sumida River. The two figures in the bow of the ferry are yotaka, "night hawks"—the lowest class of prostitutes in Edo. This image is the closest Hiroshige ever attained to depicting the vicissitudes of the life of Edo's lower class, and he did so in a manner calculated not to offend. The faces, for example, are shown as amusing caricatures of the thick lips and pug noses for which yotaka were known. In fact, many such women were disfigured by disease, which led them to hide under the sort of thick make-up we see here. The yotaka suffered a brutal life, and their painful existence was long associated in Japanese art and literature with the cold of winter.

There are a series of essays on the website, from a biography of Hiroshige, to how to read a Japanese woodcut to informative captions on each image.

On an entirely different site, I found a series of poems in honor of Hokusai but the sentiments can apply equally to both artists.

1 comment:

A Cuban In London said...

That second painting is great. Mainly because of its sombre tone.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.