Ukiyoe

hokusai - namiura

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji

( Fugaku-36kei "Kanagawa-oki namiura" ) (1826-31)
Katsushika HOKUSAI (1760-1849)
26 x 38 cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
This print has to be the most commonly recognized image of Japanese art. It is indeed a masterpiece, and probably one of the great masterpieces of the world. To quote a friend, the late Charles Mitchell, when describing this print: Hokusai claimed that all things in the universe were basically triangular or round. A careful study of this design will reveal that it is composed mostly of triangles and circles. It is extremely interesting to analyze the intricate structure and relationships. It is also worth noting that the complicated geometrical pattern did not result in a static design but in one that is the very epitome of dynamic movement and actions.
hokusai - gai fu kai sei

Red Fuji, from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji

( Fugaku-36kei "Gai-Fu-Kai-Sei" ) (1826-31)
Katsushika HOKUSAI (1760-1849)
28.5 x 38.8 cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
In this print, Hokusai achieved the ultimate state ment of Japan's most revered natural wonder. Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, and with its almost perfect symmetry has been worshipped in art and literature since the Nara period (719-84). Countless pilgrims climb the mountain annually, and to see the sun rise from its peak is an unforgettable emotional experience. The "Red Fuji" is an extremely simple composition with a limited palette of blue green and red and a skilled use ox bokashi printing.
hokusai - kajikazawa

The Lone Fisherman at Kajikazawa, from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji

( Fugaku-36kei "Kousyu Kajika-zawa" ) (1826-31)
Katsushika HOKUSAI (1760-1849)
25.5 x 38.5 cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
The composition of the fisherman pulling in his net echoes the shape of Mount Fuji in the background. The lines of the net held by the fisherman from a circle. The triangle and the circle were keys to Hokusai’s compositions. Unlike his contemporary Hiroshige, Hokusai does not gradually progress from the foreground to the background. There is an abrupt transition. In this picture, Tosa School style mist separates the distance with a typical Japanese conventional device.
hokusai - sousyu tyoushi

Fishing Boats at Choshi, from One Thousand Pictures of the Ocean

( Chie no Umi "Sousyu tyoushi" ) (1833-4?)
Katsushika HOKUSAI (1760-1849)
19.5 x 27.5 cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
The theme of men using all their energy to Combat the forces of nature is brought to life in this imaginative picture of fishermen in small craft battling the waves to haul in their daily catch.
hokusai - kirifuri no taki

Kirifuri Waterfall at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province

( Syokoku Taki Meguri "Shimotsuke Kurokamiyama - Kirifuri no taki" ) (1832?)
Katsushika HOKUSAI (1760-1849)
38.5 x 26.5 cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
This print of a waterfall near Nikko was published to encourage city dwellers to venture on trips to the countryside. The modernity of the composition is remarkable. Also noteworthy is the scale of the falls compared to the figures in the foreground and the climbers on the slope to the right of the falls. The use of dots in this print as well as in other Hokusai pictures may have had an influence on the painting techniques of his European contemporaries, especially the French Impressionists.
hokusai - taikobashi

Drum Bridge at the Kameido Tenjin Shrine, from Rare Views of Famous Bridges in All Provinces

( Syokoku Meikyou Kiran "Kameido-Tenjin Taiko-Bashi" ) (1834?)
Katsushika HOKUSAI (1760-1849)
38.5 x 23.5 cm
Courtesy of Mita Arts Gallery
Hokusai’s bridges are not as exciting as his Fuji and waterfall series but do offer some marvelous compositions. To quote the late Hokusai expert, J. Hillier: The greater topographical accuracy, the less the chance of evaluating a design completely satisfying in itself. In this set Hokusai was obviously bent on portraying the particular bridge, instead of the typical bridge. There is a greater attention to the identifying detail, to the picturesque effect.
The Drum Bridge startle us with so arduous an ascent. As in other Hokusai prints ( including "Sixty-nine Stations of the Kiso-kaido" (1839?) and "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo" (1856-8)) , the middle ground is obliterated by mist, it style from the Tosa school.
hiroshige - kanbara yoruno yuki

Night Snow at Kambara, from Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido

( Toukai-do Gojyu-san tsugi "Kanbara yoru no yuki" ) (1833-4)
Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)
27 × 39cm
Courtesy of Mita Arts Gallery
This masterpiece went through two major versions, one showing the sky becoming almost black at the horizon, the other showing the sky darkening from top down in a bokashi technique. The version here, with the darkened horizon, has more drama and emphasizes the cold white snow, especially on the roofs and treetops. This is basically a mono chrome print with the addition of yellow, red and blue on the people out in the fierce snowfall. In this very effective composition, the figure on the left leans to the left, the figures on the right lean to the right, while the center is left open with a great deal of graded black detail under the central house. One's eye is led through the now-covered rocks in the exact center of the composition.
hiroshige - syouno hakuu

Driving Rain at Shono, from Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido

( Toukai-do Gojyu-san tsugi "Syouno - Hakuu" ) (1833-4)
Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)
38 x 25.5cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
Along with the Kambara print, the Shono print rates as among the finest, if not the finest, design in the series. It is a remarkable example of the skill of the printers in controlling the multitude of grays that depict the pouring rain as it drenches the travelers who move in both directions to escape it. The popularity of this picture also caused many revisions. There is a whole body of literature devoted to the Shono print, including a D. Richard Lane on the variations in the details of the Shono, especially on the umbrella at lower right, which bears the characters Takenouchi, the name of the owner of the publishing house. The two kago bearers have covered their vehicle with a yellow oilcloth and we can just see the occupant's hand just peeking out from underneath.
hiroshige - edo hyakkei

Sudden Shower over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake, from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

( Meisyo Edo Hyakkei "Ohashi Atake no Yuudachi" ) (1856-8)
Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)
39 x 27cm
Courtesy of Mita Arts Gallery
When we look at the Shin-Ohashi Bridge and the Shono we can understand why the Japanese say Hiroshige is "wet" compared to Hokusai being "dry". As in other compositions, the figures are running out of the picture plane. The red under skirts of the two women on the left provide a pleasant color accent next to Hiroshige's signature block. Compositionally, Hiroshige creates a fantastic element of visual movement back into the exact center of the Picture with the boatman's lumber barge.
sharaku - edobei

The Actor Oniji Otani II as Edobei the Manservant

( Nidaime Otani Oniji no Yakko Edobei ) (1794-5)
Toshusai SHARAKU (1770?-1825?)
39 × 26.5cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
This strong face, with its curved contours, looks as though it is ready to burst out of the picture. The nervous drawing of the hands, even though some what odd, suggests anxiety. When one views historical dramas on television or at the movies in Japan, it is common to see actors imitating the poses and facial expressions shown in Sharaku's pictures.
sharaku - shinobu

The Actor Yonesaburo Matsumoto as Shinobu Posing as Keiwaizaka-no-Shosho
( Matsumoto Yonesaburo no Kewaizaka-no-Shosho, Jitsuha Shinobu ) (1794-5)

Toshusai SHARAKU (1770?-1825?)
39.5 x 27cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
The character shown in this print is one of two sisters who became courtesans to enable them to seek revenge for their father's murder. As in many of Sharaku's pictures, the Background is printed with mica dust to produce a subdued sparkling effect. The technical virtuosity of the print is astonishing. Matsumoto Yonesaburo was one of the most accomplished onnagata (performers of female roles in the all-male kabuki theater).
sharaku - sadanoshin

The Actor Ebizou Ichikawa as Sadanoshin Takemura

(Ichikawa Ebizou no Takemura Sadanoshin) (1794-5)
Toshusai SHARAKU (1770?-1825?)
39 × 26.5cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
In this print, black has been used to full effect in the hair, eyebrows, eyelids and snaring mouth. The rest of the outlines are printed in gray. This is one of sharaku’s most famous prints, and has been reproduced commercially in almost every manner, including a postage stamp.
harunobu - aiaigasa

Couple Underan Umbrella in Snow

(Settyu Aiai-gasa) (1760?)
Suzuki HARUNOBU (1725-70)
31 × 21cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
One of Harunobu's masterpieces, this is a stark, simple statement of two lovers under a Wagasa (Japanese Umbrella) in the snow. The man's features are not much different from the woman's; typically, in some of Harunobu's pictures it is difficult to separate the genders. The Wagasa as we know it was not developed until the late Edo period, and is a frequent symbol in prints and as a prop for the stage.
harunobu - kikujido

Parody of the Story "Chrysanthemum Boy"

(Mitate Kiku-Jidou) (1760)
Suzuki HARUNOBU (1725-70)
29 × 22cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
"Kiku-jido" is Noh repertoire based on the story of China.
The story :A boy drink to water dripping from Chrysanthemum leaves, and he was endowed eternal life.
In this work, beautiful boy became Spirit of the Chrysanthemum was drawn like a lovely girl.
This is an unusual composition in horizontal format because in almost all cases horizontal format of one or two figures were shunga (pornography). Horizontal format were more commonly employed for landscapes or scenes featuring large groups of people.
harunobu - rissyu

The First Day of Autumn from Contemporary Versions of Poems for the Four Seasons

(Fuzoku Shiki Kasen "Rissyu") (1765-70)
Suzuki HARUNOBU (1725-70)
26 × 19.5cm
Courtesy of Mita Arts Gallery
In this beautiful interior scene, a young assistant (kamuro) is helping a courtesan to put on her sleeping kimono. Her left breast is exposed. The drawing of the arm as it struggles to slip through the sleeve of the kimono is very well articulated. A more elaborate day kimono hangs on the hanger behind. Paper decorations for the Tanabata festival, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh month, hang on the trees in the background. This festival celebrates the yearly reunion of two star lovers based on a Chinese legend that says a bridge of birds spans the Milky Way, allowing time for the lovers to be together.
harunobu - ensaki bijin

Beauty at the Verandah

(En-saki Bijin) (1765-70)
Suzuki HARUNOBU (1725-70)
22 × 29.5 cm
Courtesy of Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
In this intimate portrait of a courtesan party silhouetted behind the sliding doors of a teahouse, one of the courtesans is playing a shamisen while another is about to pour sake for a customer. The main subject looks a little tipsy as she steps out to the veranda to get some fresh air. Her white kimono contrasts vividly with her red obi and violet and red undergarments. Her loosely tied obi indicates that it can be easily untied. Unlike most of Harunobu's slim, flat-chested women, the courtesan is well built, with obvious breasts and hips.