A very happy 2015 to all readers!
A selection of prints by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) is on show at the Ashmolean this month and next. The display is not large but it encourages you to really focus in on the images and admire the craftmanship that defines his work. For instance, the use of Prussian blue pigment, newly available from the west; the use of a printing technique called bokashi, that enables subtle gradations of colour; the use of the grain of the woodblock to create a visible texturing of the print.
The Tōkaidō was the major highway that linked Edo and Kyoto. Hiroshige’s series of prints depicting scenes from this route was published in 1834 and proved immensely popular. I have a particular fondness for the snowy landscapes, represented here by Evening Snow at Kanbara and Clear Weather after Snow at Kameyama (both 1833-34).
Hiroshige's Japan: Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō Road
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
9 December 2014 to 15 February 2015
An online version of this exhibition is anticipated but not yet available.
Above: Utagawa Hiroshige, Evening Snow at Kanbara, 1833-34. From the series Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō Road. Woodblock print; ink and colour on paper. Honolulu Museum of Art; image at http://honolulumuseum.org/art/exhibitions/12707-hiroshige_artists_journey. [Ashmolean version not online at time of writing.]
Below: Utagawa Hiroshige, Clear Weather after Snow at Kameyama, 1833-34. From the series Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō Road. Woodblock print; ink and colour on paper. Metropolitan Museum of Art; image at http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/57045. [Ashmolean version not online at time of writing.]