Yoshitora, Painting and Calligraphy from the 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road - Futakawa

Utagawa Yoshitora (active 1850-1880) Painting and Calligraphy from the 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road (Shoga gojusan eki): Futakawa Station, 1872. Oban.

This print is from the very first online exhibition of the Toshidama Gallery, Artists of the Utagawa School. The print sums up the nineteenth century Japanese scene in one fantastic, economical and enigmatic sheet of paper. The old ways of drawing, the old ways of seeing the world, here in the form of the traditionally dressed woman at a post station, set against the improbably drawn and woodblock-printed telegraph pole… symbol of progress, expansion and modernisation. I have always thought that there was something unutterably tragic about this forlorn woman and her proximity to the telegraph. We wrote about this coming of the new age on the Wordpress blog whilst discussing a quite different print about telegraph poles.

The print is from Yoshitora's contribution to a collaborative Tokaido Road series in the genre that Hiroshige had established in 1831, working from Hokusai’s model of 1804. It’s a great series and appropriate here as it forms a swan-song to the many different series in so many different genres on the same circuitous journey. Prints from this set are quite hard to come by and some are very highly regarded. Like the Processional Tokaido series, this set was a collaboration between the surviving diaspora of the Utagawa School. Artists included Yoshitora, Kunisada II, Kyosai, Yoshiharu and Seikichi.   

A woman in traditional dress arrives at the station on horseback (women were forbidden from walking). In the upper cartouche is a scene of the local landscape, containing similar huts and mountain views to Hiroshige’s version in his Upright Tokaido series. Yoshitora was an important pupil of Kuniyoshi and though little is known about his life outside his work, he is best known for his prints of westerners and the new face of Japan following its opening to trade in the 1860’s. What is notable about all of the prints in this series is the telegraph pole on the right margin, demonstrating Japan in a state of transition from medieval culture to its enthusiastic embrace of modern technology. There is almost no information available about these prints, but their glimpse of a changing Japan is fascinating and strangely contradictory.

A fine print, untrimmed with no condition issues except some slight offsetting to the blue in the sky. Pristine colour and impression.

36 x 24 cm.