Sunday, 9 March 2008

Exhibition: Hiroshige - The Moon Reflected

Utagawa Hiroshige. Shisaku, Iki Province (Iki Shisaku) Famous Views of the Sixty-Odd Provinces (Rokujūyo-shū meisho zue), 3rd lunar month 1853

Back in January I made a trip to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham just in time to catch an exhibition of work by the Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige, before it finished. The exhibition was curated by the British artist Julian Opie (perhaps most famous for his portraits such as the one adorning the cover of the Blur best of!)

Utagawa Hiroshige, 1797-1858, Horikiri Iris Garden, 1857

Hiroshige made hundreds of A4-sized woodblock prints of different areas of Japan. It was lovely to get a chance to see the prints up close, as well as some of his sketch books accompanying the work. The artist's final works on display were One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (1856-8), originally painted and sold to tourists, which resulted in him painting many more than the hundred originally planned. I love the compositions of his works, and the simple clean lines used. It makes me want to visit Japan and see what has changed since Hiroshige documented the mountains, lakes and bridges around him, giving us a glance at what Japan was like back in the 19th century.

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