Brief Overview of Ukiyo-e Painting

Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints)
Ukiyo-e is a genre of the pictorial arts established during the Edo period. The word "ukiyo" (this life) also means "modern," and Ukiyo-e refers to Fuzokuga, in which paintings depicts the manners and customs of the day. while Ukiyo-e is descended from Yamato-e painting (a traditional Japanese style painting of the late Heian and Kamakura periods dealing with Japanese themes), and consistent with the cultural background of the comprehensive pictorial art genre; by contrast, it depicts scenes from people's everyday life and things.

Generally, when it comes to Ukiyo-e today, one is solely reminded of the multicolor woodblock print (Nishikie [colored woodblock print]) in many cases, but original drawings (Nikuhitsu Ukiyo-e [single copy paintings created by brush]) and so on are also included.

Ukiyo-e is divided into two categories: the original drawing and the woodblock print. An original drawing was created as a single piece of work, and drawings of prestigious Eshi painters were expensive, and also the numbers of works were limited. Contrastingly, the woodblock print benefited from the fact that as a print, the same picture could be inexpensively printed off many times, so even the general public of the Edo period was easily able to obtain such works.

The Ukiyo-e woodblock print was a part of the popular culture, and prints were adored by being picked up and looked at. They were not framed and looked at from a distance as we know it today at art exhibitions, etc. They served as illustrations for Kusazoshi (Japanese chapter books), Emakimono (illustrated scrolls) and Kawaraban (commercial news sheets of the Edo period). Picture calendars called Egoyomi, which included works with diverse ideas, such as having hidden numbers in the pictures, were produced. As homecoming gifts from Edo, Ukiyo-e were appreciated due to their beauty and small size. There was a type used for clipping play, like Omochae (toy pictures for children).

Ukiyo-e is, in terms of expressiveness, characterized by clear-cut design, daring patterns, shadowless expression, etc. Perspective was also introduced. There was a type in which perspective was intentionally ignored, as demonstrated in Hokusai's "Tsuri no meijin" (Master of fishing), where a figure in the distance is conversely depicted as larger.

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Documentary of Ukiyo-e ukiyoe (27:10)

History of Ukiyo-e

The Early Stages
This refers to the period from the Great Fire in Meireki to around the Horeki era. Ukiyo-e in the early stages were mainly original drawings and single-color woodblock prints (Sumizurie).

After the mid-17th century, a person who made original drawings for woodblock prints was called Hanshita-eshi (professional draftsman), then Moronobu HISHIKAWA, who drew illustrations for picture books and Ukiyo-zoshi (popular stories of everyday life in the Edo period), made his appearance. The famous "Mikaeri Bijin zu (Picture of Looking-Back Beauty)," his most important work, is an original drawing.

Saikaku's "Koshoku ichidai otoko (Life of a Amorous Man)" (published in 1682) describes that Ukiyo-e was drawn on a folding fan with 12 ribs, and this is the oldest literature in which the word "Ukiyo-e" can be found.

When the days of Kiyonobu TORII began, there appeared a type of Sumizurie colored with ink brush. These were colored mainly with red pigments, but one with tan (red earth) being used was called Tan-e and the one with beni (rouge) used was called Benie. Furthermore, one with a few colors being added to Benie was called Benizurie. Since that time, the Torii school of Ukiyo-e has closely been associated with Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) and works on Kabuki billboards even today.

The Middle Stages
This refers to the period from 1765, when Nishikie (print) was born, to around 1806.

In 1765, Egoyomi (picture calendars) became fashionable, especially among Haiku poets, and Egoyomi exchange parties started to be organized. To meet the demand, Harunobu SUZUKI and others worked out Azuma-nishikie printed in multiple colors, and the Ukiyo-e culture came into full bloom. As to the factors by which multicolor printing was made possible, it is pointed out that "Kento" (guide marks) were introduced to mark the points for overprinting, and that strong, high-quality Japanese papers that withstood multiple-color printing became available. Papers made of Kozo (paper mulberry), such as Echizen-hoshogami (heavy Japanese paper of the best quality in Echizen Province), Iyo-masagami, Nishino-uchigami and so on were used. Also, the economic development took an important role, as the division of labor was established for the complicated processes among Shitaeshi, Horishi and Surishi.

After Harunobu SUZUKI's death, Bijinga began to change from androgynous, doll-like patterns to realistic ones.

During the Anei era, Shigemasa KITAO enjoyed popularity for his Bijinga. Realistic delineation was also added to Yakushae, and bromide-like Nigaoe (portraits) were drawn by Shunsho KATSUKAWA.

Furthermore, Utamaro KITAGAWA made his appearance and drew many Okubie ("large-head" pictures), which was a type of Bijinga with a delicate, elegant, gracious touch.

In 1790, the 'Aratame in' approval seal system was established, and various restrictions were enforced for publications.

In 1795, a Hanmoto (publisher) called Juzaburo TSUTAYA, whose assets had been confiscated due to his breaking a ban, introduced Sharaku TOSHUSAI as a revival measure. Though he attracted public attention with his uniquely exaggerated Yakushae, his popularity made a poor showing due to the excessive exaggeration of features, and he was defeated by "Yakusha butai no sugatae" (likenesses of actors on the stage) by Toyokuni UTAGAWA, which were overwhelmingly popular.

Afterward, the largest school of Ukiyo-e Eshi painters, the Utagawa school, consisting of Toyokuni's disciples began to take shape.

The Later Stages
This refers to the period from 1807 to around 1858.

After Utamaro KITAGAWA's death, the mainstream of Bijinga turned toward sensual, sexy beauty and loveliness such as Eisen KEISAI drew.

Hokusai KATSUSHIKA, one of Shunsho KATSUKAWA's disciples, along with the travel boom, drew the "Fugaku sanju rokkei (Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji)," which triggered the publication of the "Tokaido Gojusan-tsugi (The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road)," by Hiroshige UTAGAWA. With these two artists, Meishoe (landscape drawing) in the category of Ukiyo-e was developed.

In the category of Yakushae, Kunisada UTAGAWA, as the successor to his teacher Toyokuni UTAGAWA, drew strong Yakushae.

In Kusazoshi, Mushae, along with the boom in fantastical tales, came to be drawn by Kuniyoshi UTAGAWA and others.

The "Suikoden" (The Water Margin) series of Kuniyoshi UTAGAWA gained popularity at that time, and the "Suikoden boom" took place.

"Edo sunako saisenki" published in 1853 described "Toyokuni Nigao (Nigaoe), Kuniyoshi Musha (Mushae) and Hiroshige Meisho (Meishoe). "

The End Stages
This refers to the period from 1859 to around 1912.

Yokohama-e (Yokohama Ukiyo-e) became fashionable among people who were inspired by Kurofune (the "black ships" of Commodore Matthew Perry) and became interested in Western cultures. After the Meiji Restoration, Kaika-e (enlightenment pictures), which depict rare Western architecture and railways, replaced Yokohama-e.

While in Japan which was domestically disrupted by the Meiji Restoration, grotesque things appeared in Kabuki and other shows, Yoshiiku OCHIAI and Yoshitoshi TSUKIOKA, who were disciples of Kuniyoshi UTAGAWA, drew "Eimei nijuhachishuku," which depicted bloody scenes and were called Muzan-e, as well as illustrations for articles in Nishikie-shinbun.

Yoshitoshi TSUKIOKA, with his delicate, sketching-oriented patterns, drew not only Muzan-e but also many Rekishiga (historical paintings) and Fuzokuga, and came to be called "The last Ukiyo-e artist. "As he positively encouraged his disciples to learn about other categories of the pictorial art, many disciples achieved greatness as illustrators and Japanese-style painters, such as Kiyokata KABURAKI; thus the tradition of Ukiyo-e came down to other genres.

Also, some artists of the Kano school, including Kyosai KAWANABE, started drawing Ukiyo-e.

Kiyochika KOBAYASHI created new landscape drawings called Kosenga in which profile lines weren't used.

Yoshifuji UTAGAWA applied Ukiyo-e on Omochae, which is now called paper appendices, and, due to the popularity of the idea, played an active role as an Eshi painter specializing in Omochae. He was even called the "Omocha Yoshifuji. "

Ukiyo-e gradually declined, losing ground to newspapers, photographs, new technologies such as lithographs, etc. Ukiyo-e artists exercised their ingenuity against photographs, mostly in vain, and were forced to become illustrators and so on. The history of Ukiyo-e, which was handed down from the Edo period, nearly ended with the Sensou-e depicting the Sino-Japanese War as the last one.

From the Taisho period to the Showa period, Hasui KAWASE and others intended to restore Ukiyo-e with new woodblock prints, and left behind many works that utilized the woodblock multicolor printing technique of Ukiyo-e.

Themes and Types of Ukiyo-e

Ukiyo-e Drew Everyday Life of Commoners
Ukiyo-e originally appeared as paintings depicting the customs and manners of everyday life, 'ukiyo. '

Landscapes, portraits of kabuki actors, Sumo wrestlers and Yujo (prostitutes) were depicted. Many fall under the category of present-day comics and contain elements of caricature. Traditional themes, which were to be materials for Chinese paintings and Yamato-e paintings, were sometimes transformed for Ukiyo-e.

As for Shunga (erotic arts) depicting love scenes, most well-known Eshi painters drew them. Shunga were often sold in package deals. Because their selling prices were high, much money was allowed to be used for production and high-level production techniques were employed. Having the element of mocking (lampooning) the real sex culture, they weren't necessarily sensational, and it has been indicated that they shouldn't be regarded merely as pornography.

Types of Ukiyo-e

Bijinga: Pictures depicting young women.
Kanban-musume (poster girls) and Yujo, who were popular at that time, were depicted.

Yakushae: Pictures depicting popular Kabuki actors and so on.
Some were like bromides, and some served as chirashi (leaflets).

Caricature: Pictures comically drawn.
Tobae was included. Humorous scenes and personifications appeared. They contained elements of caricature but consistently emphasized the entertainment aspect.

Tobae: Caricatures depicting long-limbed human characters.
It was derived from the name of Toba Sojo (high priest). Early-stage comics are sometimes referred to in this way.

Comics: Etehon (art manuals).
Pictures depicting all creation. They were different from the present-day comics. Hokusai Manga (Hokusai's sketches) were representative examples.

Shunga: Pictures depicting sex scenes and other sensuous things.
There were brochures for sex toys and personified genital organ and so on. They were so prevalent in the countryside that Nishikie virtually meant shunga. It could be a part of a dowry.

Meishoe: Pictures depicting famous landscapes
Pictures allowed common people of the period, who were unable to travel freely, to see their longed-for famous sights. They also served as travel brochures.

Mushae: Pictures depicting famous samurai, who had appeared in legends, fantastic tales and history.
They became fashionable, particularly with the boom in fantastical tales. It was prohibited by the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) to depict Nobunaga ODA and warriors after him.

Rekishiga: Pictures depicting the historically famous scenes.
After the Meiji Restoration, there were works that depicted the past emperors in order to promote the legitimacy of the imperial family.

Omochae: Pictures for children.
There were works to be pasted on Sugoroku (Japanese backgammon) and Menko (Japanese-style pogs), miniatures of popular Ukiyo-e, paper fashion dolls, works called Zukushie on which many specters and warriors were gathered, and so on. Many ideas were adopted for use in children's toys.

Mitate-e: Parodies of classical works.

Sumoue: Pictures depicting Sumo.
Among them were bromides of performing Sumo wrestlers at the time.

Harimaze-e: Works on which several pictures were drawn on a single sheet of paper.

Shinie: Woodblock prints issued as the deaths of celebrities.
Some were for famous Eshi painters.

Kodomoe: Pictures depicting children at play.

Nagasakie: Pictures depicting the foreign cultures that were seen in Nagasaki.

Yokohama-e: Pictures full of the exotic atmosphere of Yokohama.

Namazue: Pictures that appeared after the Ansei Great Earthquakes.
It was derived from the popular superstition that Namazu (catfish) bring on earthquakes.

Hoso-e: Charms to avert smallpox.

Uchiwae: Pictures to be pasted on fans.

The Production Method for Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints
Persons who drew Ukiyo-e were called Ukiyo-e artists or Eshi painters (Edakumi [a painter]). Persons who carved the pictures drawn by Ukiyo-e artists in woodblocks were Horishi (Choko [carvers]), and persons who colored the woodblocks and printed were Surishi (printers). Although Ukiyo-e were collaborative works, customarily only the names of Eshi painters were remembered. At least four parties, including an additional party as the purchaser, became necessary.

"Kento" (present-day registration marks [printing]) were attached in order to check the position of the paper and prevent misalignment of the colors in multicolor printing. Some have theorized that it was worked out by a wholesale dealer for publication, Kichiemon UEMURA, in 1744, but others have asserted that it was practiced by a surishi named Kinroku in 1765. It is also said that it was invented by Gennai HIRAGA, who associated with Harunobu SUZUKI. . The phrases such as "Kento wo tsukeru" (to take aim at), "Kento chigai" (off the mark), "Kentou hazure" (out of register), which are used even today, derive from this "Kento. "

Influence of Ukiyo-e

Appreciation and Influence of Ukiyo-e in The World
In the Meiji period or later, Ukiyo-e received little attention in Japan, and many of the works were taken out of the country. Consequently, no legitimate, systematic and academic study could be conducted for Ukiyo-e as a pictorial art work, and opinions based on different knowledge sources were partially and continually repeated only by individual collectors and researchers.

Moreover, as it happens, there are counterfeits of many famous works, including those of Harunobu SUZUKI, Utamaro KITAGAWA and others distributed from the time of Edo period.

On the other hand, in Western countries Ukiyo-e were found and highly appreciated by the great masters of the Impressionist school, whose works were influenced by Ukiyo-e, and they were even reproduced in oil paintings. Apparently, at least 200,000 or more items of Ukiyo-e are kept in storage in 20 or more of the most prestigious Western museums; moreover, various individuals have private collections, thus indicating that Ukiyo-e is the only foreign art form that is collected in such great numbers. Many museums keep 10,000 or more items of Ukiyo-e, such as Boston's Museum of Fine Arts with 50,000 items, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts with 30,000 items, and so on.

Ukiyo-e is the world's only vivid-colored woodblock prints; Western pictorial art has no such category, which is thought to encourage its appreciation. Among the many Ukiyo-e that have been scattered, works of comparatively simple patterns, including Utamaro, were large in number while Ukiyo-e of richly colored (gaudy) complex patterns were unexpectedly small in number. As Ukiyo-e remain domestically in multiples of those that have been scattered overseas, it is hoped that studies will further proceed for Ukiyo-e as a rare art work in the world, so that appreciation of the form isn't limited to the West.

It is also valuable that Ukiyo-e is the only material in the world that depicts the varied lives of ordinary people in the Medieval period.

According to the documents of the Meiji period, there were close to 2,000 Eshi painters until that time, if unknown Eshi painters are included. Because 100 to 200 pieces were printed for a work at that time, huge numbers of Ukiyo-e appeared in the cities and, unlike anywhere else in the world, high-quality works of art were very popular among ordinary people.

Influence from Overseas
While Ukiyo-e influenced Japonism in western countries, it received influence from overseas. Synthetic pigment, Prussian blue ("Bero" came from Berlin), which originated from Germany, produced bright color and was used by Hokusai KATSUSHIKA and others. The Western perspective and shading technique were also adopted.

Influence on Overseas
In 1865, the French painter Bracquemond showed his friends "Hokusai Manga," which were on the wrapping papers of earthenware goods, and ultimately this had a great influence on the Impressionists. This brought about the situation in Europe that Ukiyo-e pieces were traded at high prices that were unthinkable in Japan at the time, while in Japan Ukiyo-e were for ordinary people's entertainment and secondhand and defective ones were traded at prices so low that they were used as packaging material for sea cargoes.

It is well known that Vincent VAN GOGH drew Ukiyo-e on the background of his work entitled "Portrait of Pere Tanguy" and reproduced Hiroshige's works in his oil painting, while the "Young Flautist" of Edouard MANET was influenced by Ukiyo-e.

Furthermore, some planar designs similar to Ukiyo-e are found in Art Nouveau due to the influences of Japonism and Bing, who dealt with Japanese arts.

Ukiyo-e even influenced classical music, as Claude DEBUSSY was inspired by Hokusai's "Kanagawa oki nami ura (Behind the Great Wave at Kanagawa)" and composed "La Mer (The Sea)"(the print was used on the front cover of the full score published in 1905, and there is a photograph in which the print can be identified as an ornament in a study).

The Famous Ukiyo-e Artists

Hokusai Katsushika

Overview of Hokusai KATSUSHIKA
Hokusai KATSUSHIKA (葛飾北斎)(c. October 31, 1760 - May 10, 1849) was a painter of Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) who flourished in the Edo period, a recent time in Japan, and was a representative figure of the late Edo period, Bunka and Bunsei eras (Kasei culture).

His major works were "Fugaku sanju rokkei" (Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji) and "Hokusai Manga" (Hokusai's sketches), and he was a famed throughout the world as a painter.

He drew shinrabansho (all things in nature, the whole of creation) and many other things, and published more than 30,000 works in his life. He was outstanding not only in terms of his woodcuts but also in his original drawings.

Additionally, he made a great contribution to the spread of painting techniques and education for common people by producing innovation in yomihon (books for reading) and sashie (illustration), publishing many picture books such as "Hokusai Manga" and showing his ability in the depiction of forms with hair brushes.

He founded the Katsushika school and later had an influence not only on Western impressionist artists such as Vincent VAN GOGH but also craftsmen and musicians.

His great achievement is highly evaluated, especially abroad, and he was the only Japanese who was ranked among 'the world 100 people who made one of the most important achievements in this 1,000 years' in "Life," a U. S. magazine, in 1999.

Personal Profile
Biography and Timeline
In c. October 31, 1760

He was born a son of Sadayoshi (定義), a poor farmer, at Honjo Warigesui, Katsushika County, Musashi Province (Honjo Warigesui in Edo, now a part of the present Sumida Ward, Tokyo Prefecture)His childhood name was Tokitaro. Later, he changed the name to Tetsuzo.

In 1764

In his childhood, he was adopted as a son by Ise NAKAJIMA, an artist of bronze mirrors of the shogunate's official business, but later Nakajima transferred the family estate to his real son, so Hokusai left the Nakajima family. Subsequently, he experienced hardships as an apprentice of a book-lending shop and a disciple of a sculptor of woodblocks, and thus returned to his family home.

In 1778

He became a disciple of Shunsho KATSUKAWA, a Ukiyo-e artist. He learned every method of painting such as the Kano school, Kara-e painting and Western painting, and drew many Ukiyo-e landscapes. Around this time, he used the go (byname) of 'Shunro,' which originated from each letter of his master's name Shunsho and his other go, Kyokurosei.

In 1779

He was excommunicated by the Katsukawa school. It is said that this was because he was at odds with Haruyoshi, the oldest senior apprentice, or because he had secretly learned the Kano school's brushwork, but the truth isn't known.

In 1795, he used the go of 'Hokusai Sori. '

In 1798

He gave the go of 'Sori' to his disciple Soji and began to use the go of 'Hokusai,' 'Kako' and 'Tokimasa. '

In 1802, he began the publication of a kyoka (comic tanka) picture book, "Ehon Azuma Asobi. "

In 1805, he began using the go 'Hokusai KATSUSHIKA' (as to the orthographic style, refer to the introduction).

In 1810, he used the go 'Taito. '

In 1814, he published the first edition of "Hokusai Manga. "

In 1820

He used the go of 'Iitsu. 'He began producing the first edition of "Fugaku sanju rokkei" in 1823, started publishing it in 1831 and concluded in 1833.

In 1834

He used the go of 'Gakyo Rojin' and 'Manji. 'He began the production of "Fugaku hyakkei (A Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji). "

In 1844

He traveled to Obuse Town, Takai County, Shinano Province, and stayed there until 1848. He drew "Angry Waves" (the picture at right is a portion of it) and so on (an original drawing at Obuse in Shinshu).

On May 10, 1849

He died at a temporary house in the precincts of Henjo-ji Temple (a branch temple of Senso-ji Temple), which was located at Asakusa Shoten-Cho in Edo. His age at death was 90. His death haiku (Japanese poem) was, 'I wonder to go to summer fields for a pastime as a soul; (人魂で 行く気散じや 夏野原) (I will be able to become a true edakumi [painter]). '

Thirty Changes in The Artist's "Go" (byname)
He frequently changed his go, doing so 30 times in his life.

The go he used were 'Shunro,' 'Hokusai,' 'Sori,' 'Kako,' Tokimasa,' 'Gakyojin,' 'Taito,' 'Iitsu,' 'Gakyorojin,' 'Manji' and others, as well as combinations of them.

The go 'Hokusai,' which is well known today, was an abbreviation of 'Hokusai Tokimasa,' which was named after the faith of Hokutatsu Myoken Bosatsu in the Nichiren sect, which deified the Polar star and the seven starts of the North Dipper.

The reason this name was common as compared to others was that it was used in the style such as 'Hokusai arateme Iitsu' (Iitsu, formerly Hokusai) or 'Hokusai arateme Taito. '

Additionally, some people say the reason he changed his go so often was that it was one of the means to gain the income needed to transfer the go to his disciples.

Ninety-three Relocations in His Life
It is also well known that Hokusai moved very often, which was said to be 93 times.

It is said that at one point he moved three times in a day.

This was because he and his daughter Oi (Oi KATSUSHIKA), who had divorced and lived with her father Hokusai, devoted themselves exclusively to painting, so that they moved whenever their rooms became dirty or in wild disarray.

Finally, upon his ninety-third relocation, when he moved to a rented house where he had lived before, the house remained in wild disorder, just as it was in the past. It is said that he stopped moving after that.

His dietary life also seemed to be in disorder, as a matter of course. It is said that the reason he achieved longevity of 90 years was that he ate arrowhead every day.

The Aspect of Illustration Painter
Besides his work in Ukiyo-e, he flourished as a painter of illustrations.

He drew many sashie for gesaku (literary work of a playful, mocking, joking, silly or frivolous nature) such as kibyoshi (an illustrated book of popular fiction whose cover is yellow), Sharebon book (a gay-quarter novelette) and yomihon. However, because he did not follow the designs proposed by authors, he was often in conflict with them.

He used the go of 'Hokusai KATSUSHIKA,' among many others, at one time when he worked together with Bakin KYOKUTEI, a writer of gesaku. At that time, they published such works as "Shinpen Suikogaden," "Kinsei Kaidan Shimoyo no Hoshi" and "Chinsetsu yumiharizuki (The Crescent Moon)," which made his name famous together with Bakin.

It is said that he was a person who greatly elevated the estimation of sashie, which had previously been only a premium of a book.

Additionally, Hokusai temporarily stayed in Bakin's home at one time.

"I would be able to become a true edakumi (a painter). "
On May 10, 1849, Hokusai was in his dying days at the age of sotsuju (90 years). The situation at that time was written as follows:

When Hokusai was dying, he took a deep breath and said, "If the heavens make me live for ten more years,"' and after a while he said, "If the heavens make me live for five more years, I would necessarily be able to become a very true edakumi," stumbled, and then died. '

The meaning is as follows: 'When Hokusai was dying, he took a deep breath and said, "If the heavens make me live for ten more years,"' and after a while he said, "If the heavens make me live for five more years, I would necessarily be able to become a very true edakumi," stumbled, and then died. '

His death haiku was

I wonder to go to summer fields for a pastime as a soul.

This means, 'I wonder to go to summer fields for a pastime as a soul. '

Masterpieces of Hokusai Katsushika
The Work "Hokusai Manga"
It consists of 15 volumes. It was a printed book that was considered to have 4,000 pictures (a picture book printed with colors). It was first published when Hokusai was 54 years old and his artist's appellation was Taito (the first edition was published in 1814). Initially, it was published as etehon (art manual, an instructional book for students of painting). However, it received a high reputation and became widespread such as for the manuals of design for craftsmen. It includes various contents ranging from people of various professions, tools, funny faces, specters and representations of perspective.

The Work "Hyakumonogatari (100 Stories)"
It was the drawings of specters, deriving its subject from Hyakumonogatari. It was medium-sized nishiki-e (colored woodblock print). Among all five pictures, the two pictures of Yotsuya Kaidan (Yotsuya Ghost Stories) and Sarayashiki (The Dish Mansion) were particularly famous. The signature and seal on these pictures were Iitsu. Drawn around 1831 - 1832. It is thought that when it was first published it was planned to be one of 100 pictures of soroimono. However, today only the following five pictures exist:

Oiwasan' (Hokusai Gallery 4), 'Sarayashiki' (Hokusai Gallery 5), 'Warai Hannya,' 'Shiunen,' 'Kohada Koheiji. '

The Work "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji"
It is the soroimono of 46 large landscape nishiki-e whose theme was Mt. Fuji, consisting of 36 main paintings and ten others that were added because of their good reputation. Production of the first edition started around 1823; it was published in 1831 and completed around 1833. The signature and seal on these pictures were Hokusai aratame Iitsu. The hanmoto (publisher) was Yohachi NISHIMURAYA (Eijudo).

Gaifu kaisei (South Wind, Clear Sky)' (also known as Red Fuji) and 'Kanagawa oki nami ura (View Through Waves off the Coast of Kanagawa)', known as representative works of Hokusai, are especially famous. Kanagawa oki nami ura' had a great impact on Western artists such as Vincent VAN GOGH, who saw it and later praised it in a letter to a fellow painter; and Claude Debussy, who got an idea and composed the symphonic poem "La Mer (The Sea). "Usually, the scene of a breaking wave can't be viewed as anything other than abstract expression. However, compared to a photograph of a wave as taken by a high-speed camera, it proves to be a very graphic still image.

In addition, this painting is adopted as the motif of the logotype of QUICKSILVER, a brand name of surfing goods.

The Work "Chie no umi (One Thousand Pictures of the Sea)"
It is the soroimono of ten medium-sized nishiki-e, the subjects of which were fishing in various places. They describe the landscapes of the changing water surface and fishermen. They were drawn by Zen Hokusai Iitsu (前北斎為一) in or around 1833.

Kinugawa Hachifuse' (Bowl-Trap Fishing on the Kinu River), 'Soshu Choshi' (Choshi in Fusa Province) (see the picture at right), 'Miyatogawa Naganawa' (Long-line Fishing on the Miyato River), 'Machi - ami' (Net Fishing), 'Soshu Tonegawa' (Tone River in Fusa Province), 'Koshu Hiburi' (Fishing by Torchlight in Kai Province), 'Uraga in Sagami Province,' 'Goto Kujira - tsuki' (Whaling off the Goto Islands) (as depicted in 'Whaling culture'), 'Noborito in Shimousa Province' and 'Kabarinagashi' (Fly-Hook Angling).

The Work "Waterfalls in Various Provinces"
It is a soroimono of eight Ukiyo-e landscapes as large-sized nishiki-e which described famous waterfalls all over the country with focus on the appearance of falling water. Hanmoto was Yohachi NISHIMURAYA (Eijudo), the same as "Fugaku sanju rokkei. "Drawn by Zen Hokusai Iitsu (前北斎為一) around 1833.

Shimotsuke Kurokami-yama Kirifuri no Taki' (Kirifuri Falls at Mt. Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province), 'Soshu Oyama Roben no Taki' (Roben Falls at Oyama in Sagami Province), 'Toto Aoigaoka no Taki' (Aoigaoka Falls in the Eastern Capital), 'Tokaido Sakanoshita Kiyotaki Kannon' (Kiyotaki Kannon at Sakanoshita on the Tokai Road), 'Yoro Falls in Mino Province,' 'Amida Falls in the Depth of Kiso Road' (Hokusai Gallery 3), 'Kiso Kaido Ono no Bakufu' (Ono Falls on the Kiso Kaido Road), 'Yoshitsune Horse-wash Falls at Yoshino, Yamato Province. '

The Work "Spectacular Views of Famous Bridges in Various Provinces"
It is a soroimono of Ukiyo-e landscapes, consisting of 11 pictures with unique bridges throughout the country as their subjects. It is a large-size nishiki-e. Drawn by Zen Hokusai Iitsu around 1833 - 34. Many of the bridges drawn in it actually exist, but some of them are legendary.

Mt. Tenpo at the Mouth of the Aji River in Settsu Province,' 'Kameido Tenjinsha Taikobashi' (Arched Bridge at Kameido Tenjin Shrine), 'Kumo no Kakehashi at Mt. Gyodo in Ashikaga,' 'Suo no Kuni Kintaihashi' (Kintai Bridge in Suo Province), 'Togetsu Bridge at Arashiyama in Yamashiro Province,' 'Tsukumo Bridge in Echizen Province,' 'Tenman Bridge in Settsu Province,' 'Hietsu no Sakai tsurihashi' (Suspension Bridge of Sakai at Hietsu) (See the right picture), 'Old Picture of Sano Funahashi in Kozuke Province', 'Yahagi Bridge at Okazaki on the Tokai Road,' and 'Old Picture of Yatsuhashi Bridge in Mikawa Province. '

Utamaro Kitagawa

Overview of Utamaro KITAGAWA
Utamaro KITAGAWA (喜多川 歌麿) (the date of birth unknown, 1753 - October 31, 1806) was an Ukiyo-e artist in the Edo period. His family name was Kitagawa (written as 北川). His given name was Nobuyoshi. His first professional name was Toyoaki. His nom de plume in kyoka (comic tanka poetry) was Fude no ayamaru. He is an internationally renowned Ukiyo-e artist alongside Hokusai KATSUSHIKA. His works are characterized by their delicate and graceful lines. Endeavouring to depict beautiful women of various postures and facial expressions, he was a master of bijin-ga (a genre of Ukiyo-e specializing in the portrayal of beautiful women).

He came from the present Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture. He studied with Sekien TORIYAMA, creating the portraits of Kabuki-actors in hosoban (a narrow print size, about 33 cm by 15 cm) and picture books. Under the patronage of his publisher Juzaburo TSUTAYA, he developed his remarkable talents as an Ukiyo-e artist. He achieved great popularity with his 'Bijin Okubi-e' (close-up portraits of beautiful women) which he began to compose around 1791.

Utamaro devised a new composition focusing on a woman's face while omitting her body which the traditional bijin-ga portrayed. This enabled him to minutely depict a belle's facial expressions and feelings. Utamaro portrayed only the common women like prostitutes, oiran (courtesans) and waitresses. However, Utamaro's Ukiyo-e became a medium that spread the names of his models across Edo.

In response to it, the shogunate often gave him restrictions, but Utamaro continued to portray beautiful women in the form of hanji-e (picture puzzles). Enraged by Utamaro's portrayal of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI viewing cherry blossoms at Daigo, the shogunate put him under house arrest, with his hands in chains. At that time 'Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI' was a forbidden subject. The portrayal of Hideyoshi who enjoys sake viewing cherry blossoms with his wives and concubines, including Kita no Mandokoro and Yodo-dono, is sometimes said to be a caricature of the then shogun, Ienari TOKUGAWA.

Hiroshige Utagawa


Brief Personal History of Hiroshige UTAGAWA
Hiroshige UTAGAWA (1797 - October 12, 1858) was an Ukiyo-e artist. He was born in the Ando family, who were firefighters in Edo, and after succeeding to the family headship, became an Ukiyo-e artist.

Hiroshige was born as a son of Genemon ANDO, a lower-ranking samurai in Edo and an officer of the Yayosu Riverbank Fire Station. His childhood name was Tokutaro, and later Juemon or Tokube. He had been interested in painting since childhood, and around 1811, at the age of 15, tried to enter the school of Toyokuni UTAGAWA at first, but was refused because there was no vacancy. He then became a disciple of Toyohiro UTAGAWA (c. 1773 - 1828) who gave him the name of Hiroshige UTAGAWA in the following year, 1812.

Eleven years later, in 1823, he resigned from the family business as a fire fighter and became a full-time painter.

In 1830, he changed his name to Hiroshige ICHIYUSAI, and began painting flowers and birds, but after the death of Toyohiro in 1828 he painted mainly landscapes. In 1832, he changed his pseudonym to Ichiryusai.

He died in 1858. He died at the age of 62. His friend Kunisada UTAGAWA painted his "Shinie" (something like a portrait for remembrance) with his death poem written on it.

I depart on a journey, leaving my brush in the East, to scenic places in the Western country. He meant, "I want to see scenic places in the Western Pure Land. "The cause of death is said to have been cholera.

Famous "Hiroshige Blue"
Ukiyo-eThe works of Hiroshige UTAGAWA are highly appreciated in Europe and the United States of America for their dynamic composition and the beauty of blue color, particularly indigo blue.

This vivid blue is derived from the indigo plant and called in Europe and America "Japan Blue" or "Hiroshige Blue" comparing it to Vermeer Blue (lapis lazuli).

Hiroshige Blue is considered to have had a great influence on impressionists and Art Nouveau artists originated in late 19th century France and was one of the factors that had led to the prevalence of Japonism then.

Return Trip via Tokai-do Road
In 1832, Hiroshige is said to have obtained a chance to travel back and forth to Kyoto by joining the shogunate procession which was the envoy to present horses to the emperor. In 1833, he painted "Tokaido Gojusan-tsugi" (Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido), which is regarded as his masterpiece. In addition to the excellence of the work itself, with perspective and a sense of depth effectively representing rain or wind, it became very popular as a measure to get a glimpse of the outside world that the people of that time yearned to see.

Meanwhile, there is a theory that in fact he might have not traveled, although a story says that he managed to have joined the shogunate procession using influential connections.

There is also a theory that he painted it by modifying oil paintings of Kokan SHIBA.

Koshu Nikki (Diary of Koshu)
In the middle of the Edo period, improved productivity in cities revitalized townsmen culture such as learning, arts for amusement, rites, festivals and seasonal events. Kofu Castle Town in Kai Province (Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture), then under the direct control of the shogunate, also held a grand festival of Doso-jin (traveler's guardian deity) in the late Edo period where it was decorated with splendid banner paintings. The economic power of merchants in Kofu enabled them to invite famous painters like Hiroshige from Edo to produce the banner paintings. Upon the request in 1841 of townspeople in 1-chome, Midori-cho, Kofu (now Wakamatsu-cho) to paint the banner, Hiroshige left Edo for Kofu via Koshu-kaido Road in May of that year and stayed there working on it. "Koshu Nikki" (Record of the Days in May 1841, Year of the Ox) is a record of that time, with sketches and diaries written during his trip from Edo and stay in Kofu. It includes sketches of scenic places in Koshu, such as Mt. Takao viewed from current Hachioji City, Mt. Fuji viewed from Kofu City, Kai Zenko-ji Temple there and the Fuji-gawa River in Minobu-cho, drawn in black ink with brushes of different thickness. It is used for the study of Hiroshige's works and also regarded as an important record of the actual situation of Kofu Castle Town in the Edo period, for its descriptions about a play viewing in Kofu, a restaurant where he was entertained, and so on.


According to the diary, Hiroshige arrived at Kofu on May 25 of that year and enjoyed a haiku gathering, play and so on during his stay, and was welcomed by the townspeople of Kofu. The diary was then interrupted and resumed in December, during which interruption the banner paintings were completed. The advance money is said to have been 5 ryo (ryo is a currency unit). These banner paintings of 39 scenic places along the Tokai-do Road were displayed in Yanagi-machi, Kofu. During the interruption of the diary, he is considered to have dedicated himself to painting the banner, or temporarily have returned to Edo to work on it. Among the banner paintings completed by Hiroshige, only a few have been preserved till the present day; two of them are owned by Yamanashi Prefectural Museum and a preliminary sketch has been retained by an old family in Kofu City.

In addition to the banner paintings, he also completed paintings on folding screens and sliding doors upon the request of the townspeople of Kofu and a part of them has been preserved by a mercantile house of Kofu, Oki Collection (owned by Yamanashi Prefectural Museum).

The diary also contains sketches of scenic places in Kai Province in addition to the records of his stay in Kofu, and a part of the sketches was utilized in the paint "Fuji Sanjurokkei" (Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji). It was known to be contained in "Kai Shiryo Shusei" (Collected Materials of Kai Provincial History), but the original book was lost in the Great Kanto Earthquake. The discovered sketchbook consists of 19 Japanese papers, 19. 6 cm long and 13. 1 cm wide. It is said to have been taken abroad immediately after the death of Hiroshige the third in 1894. In 1925, English researcher Edward F. STRANGE introduced it in his book, but then it went missing. In 2005, a citizen of the United States of America won it in an auction held in London, and a curator of Nakagawa-machi Bato Hiroshige Museum of Art in Tochigi Prefecture judged it as genuine. It was discovered after almost 80 years (Asahi Shinbun newspaper dated September 5, 2006).

Superb Paintings
Later, around 1848, he started to call himself simply Ryusai. As woodblock printing became popular, Ukiyo-e artists became printmakers and few could finely paint on paper or silk with brushes, but Hiroshige left superb paintings that had a different charm from prints.

The perspective is known to have influenced impressionists, particularly Vincent Van GOGH (1853 - 1890), but it was originally a technique that Ukiyo-e artists had adopted from Western paintings, and can be observed in uki-e (perspective pictures) by earlier artists such as Hokusai KATSUSHIKA and Toyoharu UTAGAWA (1735 - 1814), the founder of Utagawa school.

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Encyclopedia of Japan