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Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重)

Print: The Fuji River gorge in snow (雪中富士川之図)

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Dates: 1842,created
Dimensions: 9.75 in,29.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Color woodcut on paper; vertical ōban diptych
Inscription:

Signed: Hiroshige hitsu (廣重筆)
Artist's seal (in red): Ichiryūsai
Publisher: Sanoya Kihei (Marks 446- seal 25-210) - barely visible in the lower right

Related links: British Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Tokyo National Museum; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Harvard Art Museums; Honolulu Museum of Art; Library of Congress; Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts; Chazen Museum of Art; Ritsumeikan University - in black and white; Chiba City Museum of Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Portland Art Museum; Smith College Museum of Art; Cleveland Museum of Art;

Physical description:

This tour-de-force of landscape printmaking was intended to act as a hanging scroll painting for display in the home. Hiroshige has evoked a traditional Chinese style of landscape painting, with deep recession in space and dependence on line to carry the composition, rather than using a dazzling array of color. There was a ready market for blue and white winter scenes such as this one, with dramatic shading through bokashi inking effects. These were achieved by skilled brushing and wiping pigment across the wood block in preparation for laying the paper down and printing, and then repeating the process several times to intensify deep blues and grey-blacks. Scattered snowflakes across the sky and river unify the top and bottom sheets. The virtuosity required to create such masterpiece continues to amaze artist Mike Lyon.

Although it very likely that none of Hiroshige’s earlier landscape series from the first decades of the 19th century were drawn from life, by 1842, when this snowy scene was composed, Hiroshige had been able to travel and view picturesque sites around Japan.

Hiroshige records in his diaries that he commenced on a journey westwards from Edo on the fourth month Tempo 12 (1842). He walked the Koshukaido to Kofu in Kai Province and then on to Shimo-suwa. On the route to Kofu, he mentions visiting the Saruhashi, Monkey Bridge, and consequently must have crossed the upper reaches of the Fuji River to reach Kofu. On his return Hiroshige designed two kakemono-e, one of the Monkey Bridge for the publisher Tsutaya, and the design here of Fujigawa for the publisher Kikakudo (Sanoya Kihei). Both are considered masterpieces.

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There is another copy in the Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, Krakow.

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Illustrated:

1) In color in Worldly Pleasures, Earthly Delights: Japanese Prints from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, p. 320, #277.

2) Hiroshige: prints and drawings by Matthi Forrer, 1997, p. 118.

3) In a large color reproduction in 'The World of Japanese Prints' by Sarah Thompson, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 82, No. 349/350, Winter-Spring, 1986, p. 46.

Sarah Thompson wrote of this composition: "The format and composition of this magnificent print, which was probably intended to be mounted as a hanging scroll, are derived from landscape paintings in the Chinese style. Despite the grandeur of the background mountains, however, the print is rather intimate in feeling."

4) In color in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in the Collection of Chiba City Museum of Art (千葉市 美術館 所蔵 浮世絵 作品選 - Chiba-shi Bijutsukan shozō ukiyoe sakuhinsen), 2001, p. 79, #184.

5) In a full-page color reproduction in The Floating World: Ukiyo-e Prints from the Wallace B. Rogers Collection, Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, 2008, p. 112.

6) in a full-page color reproduction in Japanese and Chinese Prints: The Walter Amstutz Collection by Jack Hillier, Sotheby’s, 1991, p. 359. Hillier wrote: "Hiroshige's landscape masterpiece in the Kakemono-e format, of a grandeur and austerity only matched by the late "Snow, moon and flower" triptychs. Frequently illustrated.