ukiyo-e

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Art History

'Fantastic Landscapes' Surveys the Vivid Use of Color in Hokusai and Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints

July 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Yamashiro Province: The Togetsu Bridge in Mount Arashi (Yamashiro, Arashiyama Togetsukyo),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-Odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1853

An exhibition opening this weekend at the Art Institute of Chicago plunges into the vast archives of renowned Japanese ukiyo-e artists Katsushika Hokusai (previously) and Utagawa Hiroshige (previously). Fantastic Landscapes brings together the vivid scenes created by the prolific printmakers through the first half of the 19th Century with a particular focus on their innovative uses of color. Peach skies, grassy bluffs in chartreuse, and their extensive applications of Prussian blue—Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” famously layers the chemical pigment—mark a broader shift in the artform. Today, the pair are largely attributed with sparking a worldwide fascination with Japanese prints.

Explore some of the woodblock works on view as part of Fantastic Landscapes below, and see them in person between July 17 and October 11. You also might enjoy this monumental book compiling Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and Hiroshige’s delightful shadow puppets.

 

Katsushika Hokusai, “The Back of Mount Fuji Seen from Minobu River (Minobugawa Urafuji),” from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), about 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaido (Kisoji no oku Amidagataki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Plum Garden at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki),” from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Awa Province: Naruto Whirlpools (Awa, Naruto no fuha),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1855

Katsushika Hokusai, “A Mild Breeze on a Fine Day (Gaifu kaisei),” from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei), c. 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Kirifuri Falls at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province (Shimotsuke Kurokamiyama Kirifuri no taki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri), c. 1833

 

 



Art History

Learn the Shadow Puppetry of Japan's Edo Period with Hiroshige's Delightful Woodblock Prints

June 2, 2021

Grace Ebert

Master the playful art of shadow puppetry with a little help from Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858). The prolific ukiyo-e artist, who is best known for his poetic woodblock prints of the Tōkaidō and views of Edo, also created an instructive series of omocha-e, or toy pictures intended for kids, that demonstrates how to twist your hands into a snail or rabbit or grasp a mat to mimic a bird perched on a branch. Appearing behind a translucent shoji screen, the clever figures range in difficulty from simple animals to sparring warriors and are complete with prop suggestions, written instructions for making the creatures move— “open your fingers within your sleeve to move the owl’s wings” or “draw up your knee for the fox’s back”—and guides for full-body contortions.

Prints of the eight-figure chart shown above, which Hiroshige released in 1842, are available from Flashbak, and you can explore a massive archive containing thousands of his works on The Minneapolis Institute of Art’s site. (via Present & Correct)