Hiroshige I, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, Night View


Artist: Hiroshige I Ando (1797-1858)
Title: 34. Night View of Matsuchiyama and the San'ya Canal
Series: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo
Publisher: Uoya Eikichi
Date: 1857
Dimensions: 25.1 x 37.3 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.


The San'ya Canal was strongly associated with the Yoshiwara, the red light district of Edo (now, modern-day Tokyo). Access to this area was only possible through a series of canals by boat, the whole journey elevating this hedonist haven into another realm. There, social hierarchies and feudal prejudices would flip upside down and mingle with one another: samurai had to give up their swords, their status symbols, at the gates, and the stylish and cultured took precedence over money and class. The Imado Bridge marked the last stretch of the trip where the boats would moor and travelers alight to proceed on foot. Hiroshige hints at these pleasure seekers in the faraway silhouettes of the boats heading to the pillars of the Imado Bridge in between two restaurants on the canal bank. At the forefront of the scene is the mysterious figure of a geisha. She follows her attendant who holds a lantern. Hiroshige's use of the kiri, or compositional cut, isolates the geisha from her company, allowing the viewer to focus on her impenetrable expression. Her allure is heightened by the stars behind her, doubled by their reflection in the canal. A faint wood grain lent by the printing process provides further texture to the night sky.

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)
SubjectBeauty & Female, Landscapes
Size25.1 x 37.3 cm
Condition ReportSome pinholes. Some minor stains and creases around margins.
SeriesOne Hundred Famous Views of Edo::Hiroshige I Utagawa
publisherUoya Eikichi:1855-1866