Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) The Fifty-Three Stations by Two Brushes: No 23, Fujieda: Fording the Seto River, 1854. Oban.
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The Tokaido Road dates from 1603 and connected the two capitals, Edo and Kyoto. It was constructed by Tokugawa Iyeyasu and was used for processions of Lords twice a year to the ruler's palace in Edo. Hiroshige first travelled it in 1832, producing a fine series of prints of each of the fifty-three post-stations along the highway. He frequently returned to the subject which had made him famous, producing at least a dozen series of prints in his lifetime.
This is a series that rarely comes to the market. A Hiroshige set of Tokaido Road Stations with figures drawn by Kunisada. Both artists were well established and both artists were colleagues and friends it would seem. It is a fine series, clean, beautifully designed and nicely put together… of course Kunisada and Hiroshige had worked on the One Hundred Ogura Poets series in 1847 which also appears in this selection. The series was possibly a response to greater censorship regarding the decadence of woodblock printing, but more likely a response to an increasingly mobile and sophisticated audience. This print for example shows a single female being carried by porters, an occurrence impossible only a decade or two earlier. Despite then the primitive form of transport this is a modern image for mid century Japan.
Hiroshige’s landscape… a very fine one and in beautiful fresh condition, occupies the framed oblong in the upper part of the print. Kunisada’s figures are superimposed in the foreground but they do not jar nor intrude on the delicacy of the scene. The place commemorated is the river crossing at Fujieda; often the figure groups in the foreground are characters from folk stories or kabuki dramas, some even recognisable as well known actors although not, I think, in this case.
Full size, the condition and colour and impression are all very fine; the Hiroshige landscape scene is especially fresh, the woodgrain very visible in the bend of the river.
Publisher: Maruya Kyushiro.
24 x 36 cm.
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