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5 of Ando Hiroshige's Best Landscape Woodblock Designs.


Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) is generally considered the greatest Ukiyo-e artist (together with the great Hokusai) of the landscape genre. 
He was a son of an Edo (today's Tokyo) firewarden and although he succeeded on an early age to his father's hereditary post the attraction of becoming a woodblock designer dominated. He became a student of Utagawa Toyohiro (1773-1828) and studied the classical tradition of the Kano painting style. Hiroshige was also very much interested and influenced by the Western artists and their view on depicting the landscape and the perspective.

The following five woodblock designs are from two of Hiroshige's finest contributions to Japanese art, namely his series 'Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido' (c.1833-34) and 'One Hundred Famous on Edo' (c.1856-59)

Nocturnal Snowfall in Kambara

(Station 16 in the series 'Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido' )

A rather traditional scene depicting the town of Kambara covered under a thick white blanket of snow. On the right of the image two travellers walking uphill just passed by a local residant who's holding an umbrella. All three are trudging through the snow leaving their footprints while large flakes fall from the dark sky. What makes this design so extraordinary is the minimal use of colour and the skilful manner in which Hiroshige depicts snow giving this scene a forceful poetic effect. Strangely enough Kambara is situated near a warm stretch of coast, where it seldomly snows, so this scene probably represents an ebullition of Hiroshige's imagination.


Sudden Rainstorm at Shono

(Station 46 in the series 'Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido' )

In this most famous of all Hiroshige's prints some inhabitants of Shono are overtaken by a sudden downpour and are running for shelter. 
Two palanquin bearers and their human freight are running up the steep mountain accompanied by a basket-seller. Running down the 
mountain are a traveller and his servant with the latter one holding an umbrella. The countryside is heavily veiled in rain with the town 
Shono barely visible.

In this dynamic composition Hiroshige has divided the space in audacious triangles of varying depth with the two groups of figures running in opposite directions out of the frame. Hiroshige creates a perspective depth using different shades of black on the bamboo forest effectively contrasting with the overall colour composition giving it an almost idyllic feel.



Plum Orchard in Kameido (a.k.a. Plum Garden)



(Print 30 in the series 'One-Hundred Views on Edo' )

Hiroshige's Plum Garden is a perfect example of the symbiotic exchange between the artists of the East and the West. In this daring composition (and in many others in this series) Hiroshige applies the repoussoir device, which was a common technique in Western art, placing a large plum-tree to the foreground with the twigs dividing the image in seperate parts. The visitors in the background, who enjoy the sight of these trees, almost look like little puppets. The red of the sky and the green of the landscape represent the two major contrasting hues and enhance the impression of uniqueness expressed by the picture. The print is probably best known as a model for Vincent van Gogh's copy in oils.





Sudden Shower at Ohashi (a.k.a. Sudden Shower)



(Print 52 in the series 'One-Hundred Views on Edo' )

Hiroshige was fascinated by the realism of photography and the possibilities of incorporating its compositions to his woodblock designs. One of his best known examples is the Sudden Shower print which along with his Plum Garden design inspired Van Gogh. Hiroshige depicts six townspeople caught in a sudden downpour on the Ohashi bridge. On the Sumida river a raftsman, wearing a straw raincoat, tries to control his raft through the fast running water.

The vertical lines of the rain accentuated by the vertical format of the print are masterfully counterbalanced by the diagonal lines of the bridge on the foreground and the riverbank in the background. In an earlier impression (most probably an earlier "proof" state!) two addtional rafts are depicted.



Fox Fires on New Year's Eve at the Garment Nettle Tree at Oji 
(a.k.a. Fox fires)


(Print 118 in the series 'One-Hundred Views on Edo' )

The Foxfires design is the conclusive print Hiroshige produced for his 'One-Hundred Views on Edo' -series, published shortly before his death, and is the only one in the entire series that involves the fantasy theme. This mysterious design is based on an old Japanese legend in which fox spirits (kitsune) gather around the Garment Nettle Tree on New Year's Eve. Hiroshige's terrific use of different shades of blue adds to the ominous emanation. He often used Prussian blue in his work earning him the nickname "Blue Hiroshige".



>> Click Here For Purchasing or more Info of the Original Hiroshige Foxfires piece.




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