Hiroshige I Utagawa, Nihon Bridge, Snow Scene, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo


Artist: Hiroshige I Ando (1797-1858)
Title: 1. Nihon Bridge, Clear Skies after Snow
Series: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo
Publisher: Uoya Eikichi
Date: c.1856-1859
Dimensions: 22.9 x 34.2 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

 Such a sight of Nihonbashi in the Edo period (1603-1868) would have been extraordinarily vibrant and full of life. Understandably, Hiroshige begins his tour of Edo here: the central place of trade and commerce which marked the starting point for the Tokaido road. Fisherman can be seen selling tuna with stalls along the river, whilst traders arrive on boats with thatched roofs to protect their cargo. Hiroshige renders this clear day after snowfall with a pervasive bright white. Entirely illuminated by the morning sunshine, the large storehouses along the left bank stand in bold contrast to the rich Prussian blue of the Nihonbashi River. Horizontally demarcating the scene is the renowned bridge itself, exceeding its actual recorded length but emanating with the bustle and energy it was known for. Mount Fuji occupies the highest position in the print, which along with the distant sight of Edo Castle on the right-hand side, form the diarchy essential to the legitimacy of the newly established capital and rightful reign of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Today, Nihonbashi is a financial district in Tokyo that grew around this bridge of the same name. The original wooden bridge was built in 1603 and was replaced by a new stone and steel construction in 1911.

Hiroshige I Utagawa (1797 - 1858)

Hiroshige I Utagawa was a woodblock print artist best known for his landscape prints and considered as one of the greatest Japanese artists in ukiyo-e history to have influenced Western impressionists, such as Van Gogh and Claude Monet. Born in Edo (today’s Tokyo), he started sketching from an early age and was later accepted into Toyokuni I Utagawa’s highly successful studio mostly under the guidance of Toyohiro Utagawa (1773-1828), from whom he would adopt his art name. He also took nanga painting lessons that had a great influence on his later work.

In 1831 his first landscape series ‘Famous Places of The Eastern Capital’ (Toto Meisho) was published and the following year Hiroshige passed on his family responsibilities to his relatives to dedicate his entire energy to printmaking. In 1832, it is said that Hiroshige was appointed by Bakufu, the feudal government of Japan, to accompany an official procession from Edo to Kyoto along the Tokaido road. The artist made many sketches during this journey, resulting in the production of his most acclaimed series ‘Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road’, although some of the designs are based on older available images. To be noted that it was rare for an artist (and regular people in general) to be able to travel and sketch landscapes from life during the Edo period, which makes some scholars believe that Hiroshige depicted most scenes entirely from his imagination.

The ten-year period of 1833-1843 is thought to have been Hiroshige’s most developed and innovative time as an artist. A lot of series that were produced during this time, such as ‘Sixty-nine Stations of Kisokaido Road’, ‘Eight Views of Omi’ and ‘Famous Places of Kyoto’, would lead to the peak of his career when he produced the ‘Famous Views of the Sixty-odd Provinces’, ‘Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji’ and his last great series, ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’. In addition to his landscape prints, Hiroshige also designed kacho-ga (pictures of birds and flowers), bijinga (pictures of beautiful women), yakusha-e (pictures of actors), warriors and historical subjects.

Hiroshige’s prints are particularly sought for their perspective and excellent bokashi (colour gradation). Careful overprinting and shading of colours bring to life many natural elements such as the sky or water, rocks and mountains. An appreciation for wood pattern can also be noted in Hiroshige’s prints, with certain designs showing a unique texture and an organic quality deeply cherished by collectors. As many other reputable artists, he also had many students, some of the most famous being Hiroshige II Utagawa and Hirokage Utagawa.

More Information
Print FormatOban (Vertical)
ArtistHiroshige I Utagawa (1797 - 1858)
Size22.9 x 34.2 cm
Condition ReportTrimmed. Some pinholes.
SeriesOne Hundred Famous Views of Edo::Hiroshige I Utagawa
publisherUoya Eikichi:1855-1866