Hiroshige, 53 Stations of the Tokaido (Jinbutsu Tokaido) Fukuroi

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido (Figure or Jinbutsu Tokaido) Station #28 Fukuroi, 1852. Chuban.

This print and the other in this show of the same series are very fine indeed. 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.

What made his work so popular was that he took the traveller's vantage point, choosing to illustrate the landscape and the ordinary people of the route rather than grand temple views or dignitaries. This is especially true of this rare and delightful chuban series, the Jinbutsu or Figure Tokaido. Hiroshige has here eschewed his normal emphasis on landscape and chosen to illustrate figures and interactions observed on his journeys. Each print places a figure or group in the foreground engaged in quite humdrum tasks - fighting against the rain, leading a donkey, flying kites or carrying a palanquin. His minute and humourous observations record not only the locale, the landscape and so on, but also the ordinariness of day to day events.

In this terrific print we see kite flyers on a windy day and a traveller walking past; a beautiful and intimate portrait of daily life. A lovely print, fine impression with unfaded colour, full size image and with margins. An exceptional Hiroshige from a rare series.

Published by Muraichi.

There is a copy of this print in the MFA Boston.