Category Archives: Fukkoku woodblock prints

KINRYUZAN TEMPLE AT ASAKUSA (Utagawa Hiroshige)

Wonderful woodblock print made by the artist Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重) to celebrate the restoration of the pagoda of the Kinryuzan Sensoji Temple (金龍山浅草寺), damaged by the strong earthquake that struck the city of Edo (江戸) in 1855. Very skillful the chromatic selection made by the artist who, with the white of the snow and the red of the buildings and of the large lantern, emphasizes the celebratory mood of the work, by using the auspicious color scheme of the Japanese tradition.

The print, one of the most iconic images from the series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo” (名所江戸百景), is entitled “Kinryuzan Temple at Asakusa” (浅草金龍山) and was printed for the first time in July 1856 by the publisher Uoya Eikichi (魚屋栄吉).

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CATS OF THE TOKAIDO ROAD (Utagawa Kuniyoshi)

The artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) was a cat lover and in this famous woodblock print, in which he depicts scenes representing with plays on words the names of the stations of the Tokaido road (東海道), manages to capture with humor, but also with great accuracy as a result of a careful observation of the subject, many aspects of the charm of these animals.

The work, the right panel of a triptych published for the first time around 1848 by the publisher Ibaya Senzaburo (伊場屋仙三郎), is titled “Sono Mama Jiguchi Myokaiko Gojusanbiki” (其のまま地口猫飼好五十三疋) and is known in the Western world with the name “Cats Suggested by the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido”.

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TAKASHIMA OHISA OBSERVING HER COIFFURE (Kitagawa Utamaro)

Charming woodblock print of the bijin-ga (美人画) type made by the famous artist Kitagawa Utamaro (喜多川歌麿) and depicting the young Takashima Ohisa (高嶋おひさ) who in the evening, crouched in front of the makeup chest and wearing an informal dress, observes her coiffure doing awasekagami (合わせ鏡), ie using two mirrors held against each other.

This work was printed for the first time around 1795 by the publisher Matsumura Tatsuemon (松村辰右衛門) and in the upper left part we could originally see two riddles that, once solved, suggested the woman’s name and age. In subsequent editions, however, these rebuses were censored because they were considered illegal and replaced with the current iris (アヤメ) flowers.

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THE FISHERMAN OF KAJIKAZAWA (Katsushika Hokusai)

Located near the source of the Fuji River (富士川), Kajikawaza (石班沢) is a confluence of mountain streams. The woodblock print, one of the masterpieces in which Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) is able to portray both the beauty and the severity of nature with mastery, shows two streams flowing violently into each other and a fisherman who, on a rock, throws his net. Next to the man sits, patiently, his little son. Mount Fuji (富士山) stands out in the background, partially hidden by the morning mist.

The work, printed for the first time around 1831 by the publisher Nishimuraya Yohachi (西村屋与八), owner of Eijudo (永寿堂), is taken from the famous series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji” (富嶽三十六景) and is titled “Kajikazawa in Kai Province” (甲州石班沢).

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PLUM GARDEN AT KAMEIDO (Utagawa Hiroshige)

The “Plum Garden at Kameido” (亀戸梅屋舗), one of the most iconic images from the series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo” (名所江戸百景) by the artist Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重), fascinated so much the Western audience that, as is well known, even Van Gogh painted a copy of it. The park depicted in the print belonged to the sanctuary Kameido Tenjinsha (亀戸天神社) and the tree in the foreground was famous for its bizarre shape. Known as Garyuume (臥龍梅), the “Sleeping Dragon Plum Tree”, it was mentioned in every Edo guide book.

In the “List of famous places in Edo” it was described as follows: «It truly resembles a dragon laying on the ground. The branches intertwined seem to transform into a new trunk. The tree spreads to the left and right. The fragrance of its flowers eclipses that of the orchids, the vibrant white hue of the flowers, pressed tight against each other, ravishes the night».

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KIRIFURI WATERFALL AT KUROKAMI MOUNTAIN (Katsushika Hokusai)

The Kirifuri waterfall (霧降の滝) is located a few kilometers northeast of the temple complex of Nikko (日光). The water falls from a height of 75 meters and, crashing on the rocks, forms a mist from which originates the name “Kirifuri”, which means precisely: the falling (降) mist (霧). In this wonderful woodblock print, we can admire this waterfall in the interpretation of the famous artist Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) who, with a wise use of colors and with the skillful insertion of five travelers entranced by the contemplation of such a great beauty, masterfully evokes the sense of the sacredness of the nature that is inherent in Japanese spirituality.

The work, printed for the first time around 1832 by the publisher Nishimuraya Yohachi (西村屋与八), owner of Eijudo (永寿堂), is taken from the famous series “A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces” (諸国滝廻り) and is titled “Kirifuri Waterfall at Kurokami Mountain in Shimotsuke Province” (下野黒髪山きりふりの滝).

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SOUTH WIND, CLEAR SKY (Katsushika Hokusai)

In early autumn, when the wind is southerly and the sky is clear, the rising sun can turn Mount Fuji red. In this famous woodblock print, also known as “Red Fuji” (赤富士), the artist Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) captures this moment giving to the observer “one of the simplest and at the same time one of the most outstanding of all Japanese prints” (Gian Carlo Calza, Hokusai, 2003 Phaidon, p. 471).

The work, printed for the first time around 1831 by the publisher Nishimuraya Yohachi (西村屋与八), owner of Eijudo (永寿堂), is taken from the famous series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji” (富嶽三十六景) and is titled “South Wind, Clear Sky” (凱風快晴).

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RAINSTORM BENEATH THE SUMMIT (Katsushika Hokusai)

Also known as “Black Fuji” (黒富士), this famous woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) shows the snow-covered peak of the sacred mountain that rises above rain clouds and lightning. The extreme beauty of this print is accentuated by the absence of any superfluous detail.

The work, printed for the first time around 1831 by the publisher Nishimuraya Yohachi (西村屋与八), owner of Eijudo (永寿堂), is taken from the famous series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji” (富嶽三十六景) and is titled “Rainstorm Beneath the Summit” (山下白雨).

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SUIDO BRIDGE AND SURUGADAI (Utagawa Hiroshige)

A carp-shaped windsock dominates the foreground. Behind it, two other huge koinobori (鯉幟), the most significant and joyful symbol of the “Children’s Day” (こどもの日), float as if they were swimming in the air. At the bottom right the Suido Bridge (水道橋), over Kanda River (神田川), is crossed by a small crowd of common people and warriors coming and going from Surugadai (駿河台), a samurai district. Mount Fuji (富士山) rises in the background.

The work, one of the most iconic images from the series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo” (名所江戸百景) by the artist Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重), is entitled “Suido Bridge and Surugadai” (水道橋駿河台) and was printed for the first time in May 1857 by the publisher Uoya Eikichi (魚屋栄吉).

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THE GREAT WAVE OFF KANAGAWA (Katsushika Hokusai)

It’s early morning on a spring day and the sun, rising behind the observer, illuminates the snow-capped Mount Fuji (富士山). Three transport vessels oshiokuribune (押送船), carrying thirty between rowers and passengers, are overwhelmed off the Kanagawa (神奈川) harbor by a large abnormal wave okinami (沖浪). To this dramatic representation have been given innumerable interpretations but, beyond all meanings, the fact is that nature appears as a violent force ready to swallow men, who in turn represent the secularity of life as opposed to the indifference and the religiosity of the sacred mountain, unperturbed, in the background.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (神奈川沖浪裏), by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎), is not only the most famous print of the series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji” (富嶽三十六景) but also, without a doubt, the ukiyo-e (浮世絵) work that best represents and celebrates Japanese art. «It is an image now entered the collective imagination of the whole world. In it enhances the power of nature; it emphasizes the art of man Hokusai, who instead is able to dominate nature, through an aggressive and majestic graphic sign and the choice of an elegant and not pervasive color» (Francesco Morena, Hokusai, 2007 Giunti Editore, p. 86).

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