Sunday, 1 April 2018

Utagawa Hiroshige’s woodblock print, “Ishibe”, c1847


Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重) (aka Hiroshige, Ando (安藤広重); Ichiryusai (一立斎); Ichiyusai (一幽斎); Ryusai (立斎); Utashige (歌重); Juemon (重右衛門); Tokubei (徳兵衛); Tokutaro (徳太郎) (1797–1858)

“Ishibe”, c1847, plate 52 from the series of 54 colour woodblock prints (the first edition from the early 1830s had 55 plates), “The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō” (東海 五十 , Tōkaidō gojūsan tsugi no uchi), c1847/48 edition, edited by Tsutaya Kichizō. See the full series of plates at the Internet Archive: http://www.hiroshige.org.uk/hiroshige/tokaido_kichizo/tokaido_kichizo.htm

Colour woodblock print on fine washi paper
Chūban (half ōban) size: (sheet) 18 x 25.5 cm; (plate) 16.4 x 22.4 cm

Binyon 1916 117 (Laurence Binyon 1916, “A Catalogue of Japanese & Chinese Woodcuts Preserved in the Sub-Department of Oriental Prints and Drawings in the British Museum”, London, UK, BMP)

Condition: richly-inked and well-printed impression with margins as published, but with many restorations evident verso.

I am selling this rare original print by one of the great masters of Japanese woodblock print for the total cost of AU$304 (currently US$233.56/EUR189.46/GBP166.64 at the time of posting this print) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this small masterpiece that to my eyes—and I may be going too far with this proposal—captures something of the quiet mood of Edward Hopper’s night scenes (e.g. “Gas”, 1940 [https://www.moma.org/collection/works/80000]), please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print is reserved pending advise about its purchase


For those unfamiliar with this print, it is part of what is arguably Utagawa Hiroshige’s most famous series of prints, “The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō”, depicting a sequence of rest stops on the way from the Nihon Bridge in Edo to the bridge over the Sanjo at Kyoto.

This particular plate is not featured in the first edition published in the early 1830s, nevertheless, it is an original print designed by Hiroshige and was published in the Tsutaya Kichizō edition of c1847/8. Interestingly, in the first edition there were 55 plates but this number was reduced to 54 plates in the later edition as the even number (54) was logistically more practical for publication purposes.

I need to point out that Hiroshige’s series, “The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō”, was so popular that there were many editions—Wikipedia lists 22 editions published up to 1856 (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_53_Stationen_des_T%C5%8Dkaid%C5%8D_(Hoeid%C5%8D-Ausgabe)—with an equally wide range of variations in the colours used in the plates. For example, the British Museum holds a copy of this print in which the colours are surprisingly bold with the addition of bright yellow in the “blank” areas of this print and saturated turquoise marking the distance. The reason for the commercial success of the series and its many editions may be as simple as Wikipedia suggests: “[the success] was closely related to the immensely increased tourist traffic in Japan in the first decades of the 19th century, which had spawned a society ‘addicted to travel and crazy for souvenirs’” (op.cit).  No doubt this is true, but the sheer beauty and originality of the compositions should not be overlooked in understanding the popularity of the series.







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