Monday, 29 September 2008

“Hokusai & Hiroshige - On a Journey to Edo” Exhibition

This exhibition, currently on at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki (Finland), features a selection of coloured woodcuts by Hokusai (1760 –1849) and Hiroshige (1797–1858), two major artists from Japan's Edo period (1603 – 1867).

The prints on show come from the Yasusaburo Hara Collection in Tokyo. Yasusaburo Hara (1884 – 1982) was a Japanese industrial.

Water is omnipresent and landscapes are everyday scenes brought to life with peasants and animals. The colours of the woodcuts are limited (Indigo, red, black and green) but applied with gradations and variations. The blue colour, in particular, is used with wonderful gradation, from and intense indigo (almost Prussian blue in the dark) to a light veil of transparent colour.

Hokusai (1760 –1849)
Hokusai began at 14 as a woodcutter apprentice. He was influenced by western copperplate engravings. I knew about the influence of Japanese art on Monet (Giverny’s house feature many Japanese woodcuts), Mary Cassatt or Gauguin, but did not realise that western art influenced Japanese art in return.

Hokusai published a series of engraving called “Thirty six views of Mount Fuji”. He also published fifteen volumes of manga, with thousands of sketches of landscapes, people and animals.

In his commentary for the exhibition Heikki Malme (Ateneum's Chief Curator) reports the following story: “At the age of 88, just before he died, Hokusai is said to have exclaimed “If only fate had given me five more years, I could have become a true artist.”. Whether he really said that or not is not really important, it is such a perfect translation of every artist’s endless quest towards perfection.

The Great Wave (image source: Wikipedia)

Hokusai’s most famous engraving “The Great Wave”, is on show. The mouvement is beautiful ; you can feel the strengh of the wave and the finger-like foam is litteraly gripping.

Hiroshige (1797–1858)

Hiroshige was a member of the lower samourai class. He became a student of Utagawa Toyohiro. His town of Edo was a major source of inspiration and he made around 900 paintings and drawings of Edo.

Hiroshige has published The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road (c. 1831–34) which was an instant success and The Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kisokaido Road (c. 1834–42),

Where and when

Hokusai & Hiroshige - On a Journey to Edo
5 Sep–7 Dec 2008

Exhibition curated by Heikki Malme, Ateneum's Chief Curator.

Ateneum Art Museum
Kaivokatu 2
Ateneum Art Museum website:

Related resources


Hokusai: Prints and Drawings (African, Asian & Oceanic Art)
Hokusai, First Manga Master
The Sketchbooks of Hiroshige (Dover Pictorial Archives) (Dover Pictorial Archives)
Ando Hiroshige: Master of Japanese Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints (Taschen Basic Art Series)
Hiroshige: Japan's Great Landscape Artist

No comments: