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Possibly the Fuji River gorge in snow (雪中富士川之図)

Identifier: 1842 Hiroshige snowy gorge at fuji river

This tour-de-force of landscape printmaking was intended to act as a hanging scroll painting for display in the home. Hiroshige has evoked a traditional Chinese style of landscape painting, with deep recession in space and dependence on line to carry the composition, rather than using a dazzling array of color. There was a ready market for blue and white winter scenes such as this one, with dramatic shading through bokashi inking effects. These were achieved by skilled brushing and wiping pigment across the wood block in preparation for laying the paper down and printing, and then repeating the process several times to intensify deep blues and grey-blacks. Scattered snowflakes across the sky and river unify the top and bottom sheets. The virtuosity required to create such masterpiece continues to amaze artist Mike Lyon.

Although it very likely that none of Hiroshige’s earlier landscape series from the first decades of the 19th century were drawn from life, by 1842, when this snowy scene was composed, Hiroshige had been able to travel and view picturesque sites around Japan.

Hiroshige records in his diaries that he commenced on a journey westwards from Edo on the fourth month Tempo 12 (1842). He walked the Koshukaido to Kofu in Kai Province and then on to Shimo-suwa. On the route to Kofu, he mentions visiting the Saruhashi, Monkey Bridge, and consequently must have crossed the upper reaches of the Fuji River to reach Kofu. On his return Hiroshige designed two kakemono-e, one of the Monkey Bridge for the publisher Tsutaya, and the design here of Fujigawa for the publisher Kikakudo (Sanoya Kihei). Both are considered masterpieces.



1) In color in Worldly Pleasures, Earthly Delights: Japanese Prints from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, p. 320, #277.

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