Yoshimori, Painting and Calligraphy from the 53 Stations of the Tokaido - Distant View of Yokohama and Kanagawa

Utagawa Yoshimori (1830 - 1884) Painting and Calligraphy from the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido: Distant View of Yokohama and Kanagawa, 1872. Oban.

Click here for a detailed enlargment.

This print is another iconic image of Meiji Japan. Taken from a series on the 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road that included contributions by other artists including Yoshitora, this is a contemporary account of the great modernisation programme of the Meiji government and is also perhaps a necessary piece of propaganda intended to counter rural superstitions about the unfamiliar course of progress. It was reported that after the introduction of the telegraph into the country, many people complained of foxes knocking in their doors at night delivering false and misleading telegrams.

There’s a lot going on in this print, stylistically and factually, that deserves some attention. Perhaps the most anachronistic image of the piece is the alarming telegraph pole that runs the entire vertical length of the right hand side of the print. This must be one of the earliest renditions of the telegraph in art. The first telegraphic communication wire was installed in 1869 for a distance of about 800m between Yokohama Electric Light Office and Yokohama Courthouse. Telegraphic wire was then installed between Tokyo and Yokohama in December of the same year. In February of 1873, the wire was extended from Tokyo to Nagasaki. This makes this image exactly contemporaneous with that event. The box like object beneath is the way marker for the post station and in the background of the main image there is a view of the  harbour at the free trade port of Yokohama containing foreign masted sailing ships. As if to emphasise the modernity, Yoshimori has drawn the figure of the woman in the style of western Renaissance art, making a good comparison a similar print of Kintaro by Yoshitoshi. Both artists were pupils of the great Kuniyoshi who was in the vanguard of experimentation with western styles of drawing. The calligraphy (in Chinese) reads:

The wind sends flags and sails in brocade waves/ revealing copper masts and iron hawsers/ It stops in the distance, in the inlet of the bay/  We hear news of its name and its signal fires/ and know that a steamship approaches the harbor.

This is an important Meiji print. It is finely drawn and in very good condition, mounted and re-margined, colour and impression (there is embossing to the upper left cartouche) are all fine.

Published by Sawamuraya Seikichi, signed Zen Yoshimori Kosai shasei.