Object of the fortnight - Hiroshige, Utagawa. 35th station : Goyu. From the Tokaido Series, No.36

15th June 2015 at 10:02

To follow on with the theme of the last post, LICA’s collection of Japanese artwork extends further than simplistic prints. It also features real-life scenes of human activity against the natural backdrop. 

‘Traveller stopping girls’ and 'Goyu' are part of the Tokaido Series by Utagawa Hiroshige. The images both depict a particularly human scene with a focus of 3 figures in the front centre, shoppers walking in the distance, a girl overlooking the melee, and a man washing his feet in the bottom right corner. In his time Hiroshige created around 5400 artworks, of which he mostly focused on the Japanese landscape and the way that people interacted within the landscape (Pioch, 2002). These prints are perfect example of this. 

The contrast of working and slightly grotesque people, in comparison to the simplistic prints of the sky, ground and buildings is evident through the choice of colour and the outlining of the people. The print is vivid in colour and there is a clear distinction between the landscape and the subject matter. The people in the image could just as easily be cut-outs stuck onto a painting. 

This series of three focuses particularly on perspective. The trailing houses reaching into the distance, getting smaller the further away they go. This is alongside the outright bold colours of people positioned at the front and centre of the image – the pale faces and patterned clothes coupled with the mesh of arms and hats poses the question ‘what is going on here?’.

Hiroshige is wildly believed to be one of the last great Ukiyo-e printmakers, even more so than his contemporary and more well recognised Hokusai (Pioch, 2002). 

PIOCH, N (2002) Ando Hiroshige, Available from: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hiroshige/ (Last Accessed: 12/06/15)

Hiroshige, Utagawa. 35th station : Goyu. From the Tokaido Series, No.36. From the Irene Manton Bequest.

Hiroshige, Utagawa. 35th station : Goyu. From the Tokaido Series, No.36. From the Irene Manton Bequest.

Hiroshige, Utagawa. 35th station : Goyu. From the Tokaido Series, No.36. From the Irene Manton Bequest.