• The Fuji River gorge in snow  (雪中富士川之図)
The Fuji River gorge in snow  (雪中富士川之図)
The Fuji River gorge in snow  (雪中富士川之図)
The Fuji River gorge in snow  (雪中富士川之図)

Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重) (artist 1797 – 1858)

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

Print


1842
9.75 in x 29 in (Overall dimensions) Color woodcut on paper; vertical ōban diptych
Signed: Hiroshige hitsu (廣重筆)
Artist's seal (in red): Ichiryūsai (弌立斎)
Publisher: Sanoya Kihei (Marks 446- seal 25-210) - barely visible in the lower right
British Museum - dated 1830s-40s
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - dated 1830s
Metropolitan Museum of Art - dated probably 1841
Tokyo National Museum
Minneapolis Institute of Arts - dated ca. 1842
Harvard Art Museums
Honolulu Museum of Art - modern copy by Adachi Hanga Kenkyūsho from ca. 1936
Library of Congress
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts - entitled 'Snow in the Kiso Gorge' - dated ca. 1835-40
Chazen Museum of Art - dated 1842
Ritsumeikan University - in black and white
Philadelphia Museum of Art - dated ca. 1842
Portland Art Museum - entitled 'Mountain Gorge in Winter' - dated 1840-44
Smith College Museum of Art
Cleveland Museum of Art
Ashmolean Museum - dated 1840--44
Yamanishi Prefectural Museum - dated 1841
Yale University Art Gallery - dated ca. 1842-44
The Chester Beatty Library - dated 1842-44
Brooklyn Museum
Auckland Art Gallery - dated 1832
Carnegie Museum of Art 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.

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There are other copies of this composition in the Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, Krakow, the Chiba City Museum of Art, the Worcester Art Museum (dated to ca. 1838) and at the Rietberg Museum.

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Illustrated:

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

2) in Hiroshige: prints and drawings by Matthi Forrer, 1997, p. 118.

3) in a large color reproduction in 'The World of Japanese Prints' by Sarah Thompson, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 82, No. 349/350, Winter-Spring, 1986, p. 46.

Sarah Thompson wrote of this composition: "The format and composition of this magnificent print, which was probably intended to be mounted as a hanging scroll, are derived from landscape paintings in the Chinese style. Despite the grandeur of the background mountains, however, the print is rather intimate in feeling."

4) in color in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in the Collection of Chiba City Museum of Art (千葉市 美術館 所蔵 浮世絵 作品選 - Chiba-shi Bijutsukan shozō ukiyoe sakuhinsen), 2001, p. 79, #184.

5) in a full-page color reproduction in The Floating World: Ukiyo-e Prints from the Wallace B. Rogers Collection, Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, 2008, p. 112.

6) in a full-page color reproduction in Japanese and Chinese Prints: The Walter Amstutz Collection by Jack Hillier, Sotheby’s, 1991, p. 359. Hillier wrote: "Hiroshige's landscape masterpiece in the Kakemono-e format, of a grandeur and austerity only matched by the late "Snow, moon and flower" triptychs. Frequently illustrated.

7) in black and white in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections: British Museum III, supervised by Muneshige Narazaki, Kodansha Ltd, 1988, #67, p. 185.

8) in a full-page color reproduction in Hiroshige: The Master of Nature by Gian Carlo Calza, II.52, p. 127, Skira, 2009. "The river is the Fujikawa, which flows through the provinces of Kai and Suruga (modern-day Yamanishi and Sizuoka) before emptying into the sea at the homonymous city west of the Izu peninsula. ¶ The thick mantle of snow enhances the sensation of isolation and the grandeur of nature with respect to man. However, man is not crushed by this but becomes an integral part."

9) in color in Hiroshige: Shaping the Image of Japan by Chris Uhlenbeck and Marije Jansen, 2008, p. 75. The accompanying text reads: "A rare untitled vertical diptych (double ōban depicting the Fuji river in the snow. This design is probably based on travels to Kōfu in Kai province in the fourth month of 1842,

This print must have caused quite a stir because although the format of the vertical double ōban was known since the times of Utamaro, it was exclusively used for figure prints. Artists such as Eisen and Kunisada turned to this format with great success for the depiction of beauties. Now Hiroshige made it into a most impressive landscape. He would design two more viertical diptychs in a similar style around the same time and based on the same trip, but for different publishers."

10) in a full-page black and white reproduction in Hiroshige: an exhibition of selected prints and illustrated books by Sebastian Izzard, The Ukiyo-e Society of America, 1983, p. 67. Izzard wrote on p. 66: "According to his surviving diaries, Hiroshige set out on a journey on the second day of the fourth month Tempō 12 (1842). He travelled along the Koshukaidō, a road that went from Edo westwards, skirting the northern flanks of Fuji, to Kōfu in Kai province, and then on to Shimo-suwa, where it joined the Kisokaidō. On his journey to Kōfu, which was about eighty miles from Edo, his diary records a visit to the Saruhashi, the monkey bridge, a famous beauty spot. Although Hiroshige does not mention the Fuji River, he must have crossed the upper reaches of the river, however, in order to reach Kōfu. Whilst both these subjects recur in Hiroshige's subsequent career, the two kakemono-e that he designed following his return to Edo - the monkey bridge in moonlight for the publisher Tsutaya and the present print - are considered masterpieces. With their diminutive figures and monumental landscapes, both designs owe more to the traditions of Chinese painting than they do to ukiyo-e. It has been suggested that they form part of an uncompleted setsugekka trilogy, but as they were commissioned by rival publishers, this seems unlikely."

Izzard notes that the peaks on the left are only printed using bokashi with no hard outline. He says this is to "suggest swirling clouds of snow-laden mist."

11) in a black and white reproduction in 原色浮世絵大百科事典 (Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten), vol. 8, #318, p. 131.
landscape prints (fūkeiga 風景画) (genre)
Kakemono-e - 掛物絵 (genre)
Sanoya Kihei (佐野屋喜兵衛) (publisher)