Hiroshige was a Japanese artist that lived in the 19th century during Japan’s Edo period. He is known for his highly stylized ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings, and went on to inspire the likes of Van Gogh and Monet. Ukiyo-e translates to “pictures of the floating world,” which is very fitting given the atmosphere his distinctly Japanese stylizations create. Hiroshige’s works reflect the culture and time period he lived in perfectly. The artist frequently chose to display unique interpretations of different provinces throughout Japan. The different prints often culminated into a series depicting a variety of scenes that can be found within a single province.
The first attached image is of “Night Snow at Kanbara,” the sixteenth print from Hiroshige’s “The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido” series. The work is very well known today for being the album cover of the rock band Weezer’s sophomore effort Pinkerton. Although this might initially seem to be a strange pairing, the theme of isolation and the soft, reflective nature of the piece perfectly matches the lyrics and overall tone of the album. It is impressive how much depth Hiroshige was able to include within the scene, given that much of the subject matter is covered in a stark white layer of snow.
The second image I have attached is of “Drum Bridge at Meguro and Sunset Hill,” print number 111 from Hiroshige’s series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.” Made in 1854, the piece shows some villagers using a bridge to cross a stream. A majority of the scene is similarly hidden underneath a layer of snow, emphasizing the blue water and starry night sky. Given that the woodblock process tends to limit the amount of colors used in a print, Hiroshige consistently maintains an extraordinary sense of balance and layout in regards to color placement. The people that appear in Hiroshige’s prints almost always have their faces hidden behind large hats or umbrellas, perhaps done to draw attention toward the surrounding nature. Regardless of the artist’s reasons for doing so, it is a very effective and thematically rich idea.
Katsutoshi Yuasa is a modern artist that would be a suitable comparison to Hiroshige. The former uses photographs as references to aid in creating his own unique woodcut prints (seen in the third attached image). Although the artists both use woodcut methods to produce their creations, the results are very different from each other. In comparison to Hiroshige’s simple forms and figures, Yuasa’s subjects are very intricately detailed. Nature is a recurring theme in both lines of works. Yuasa’s pieces, however, are usually black and white, and have a particularly ghostly feel to them. In contrast, Hiroshige’s scenes have more of a whimsical feel, and incorporate soft fills of color against large stretches of white. These aspects highlight how versatile the woodcutting process can be, with new artists continuing to find their own approaches to techniques that are many centuries old.
Artist: Katsutoshi Yuasa.” Mark Jason Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Holmes, Charles. "Hiroshige: An Appreciation." Hiroshige.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.