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The Lure of the West European Elements in the Art of the Floating World

Landscape in mist c 1832color woodblock print 248 x

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Unformatted text preview: FIGURE 18 Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864). Landscape in Mist, c. 1832.Color woodblock print; 24.8 x 37.3 cm. Clarence Buckingham Collection, 1925.3319. ture of the Japaneseslands,the printpresents i as seen from space, looking from the Japan east.Eachof the sixty-eightancientprovinces is labeledin rectangularartouches, s areover a c sevenhundredindividualplaces--mountains, towns, islands,temples,and hot springs.Like Masayoshi's view of Ry6goku Bridge, this printwas likelyinspiredby European tchings e thatincorporated ird's-eye iews of European v b i cities,introduced ntoJapanby the Dutch. Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825),one of the leading artists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenthcenturies,was famous both as a painterandprintdesignerwho specialized in depictions of beautifulwomen (bijin)and Kabuki actors. He was the leading pupil of Toyoharu (see figs. 8-9), and the teacher of Kunitora(see fig. 14), Kuniyoshi(see fig. I7), and Kunisada(see fig. 18).Toyokuni created severalspectacular ki-e triptychs,each comu posed of three6ban-sizeprints(theobanbeing the standardsize for a Japaneseprint of this date, approximately 37-5 x 25.5 cm); these providedlargeviews of famoussites in Yoshiwara. The Art Institute's UpperFloor of the House of Cloves (fig. ii) is a good exampleof the continuingpopularityof the architectural v perspective iew in the late eighteenth entury. c t Datingto about1789, hisprintdepictsa young gentleman encountering the fashionably i dressedcourtesansn a houseof pleasure." The great artist Katsushika Hokusai t (1760-I849),who revolutionized he depiction i of landscape n Ukiyo-e prints,was fascinated by uki-e, and often experimentedwith this genre early in his career.The Art Institute owns two rare uki-e by Hokusai. The best known, one of a seriesof landscapeprints in Western tyle, is his Viewof the SumidaRiver s at Azuma Bridge, dating sometime between i8oo and i80o (fig. 12).16 The steadyrecession into depthof the banksof the canalleadingto the Sumida River in the distance and the introduction of shadows were two features MuseumStudies 89 This content downloaded from on Sun, 29 Sep 2013 20:18:18 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions LITTLE THE LURE OF THE WEST that lent a more naturalistic look to Hokusai'suki-e than to otherspopularat the turn of the nineteenth century. Like Toyoharu,Hokusai also utilized the perspective print to illustratemythology and ghost stories."17 Hokusaihadnearlytwenty close followers, many of whom also worked in the genre of the perspective print. Hokusai's student RyfiryuikyoShinsai (1764?-1820)was given the nameShinsaiby his teacherin i8oo. Much of Shinsai'ssurviving work reflects a strong interest in Westerndesign, especially in the effects of atmosphericperspectiveand shadows. His Susaki Embankment with Canal (fig. 13),executedsometimebetweeniSoo and i8io, reflectsthe clearinfluenceof Hokusai."8 The print's border,which suggests a carved Europeanwooden frame,was a deviceShinsai often used; it appears in autograph prints by the artist. Although this work is signed "Gakyo-jin Hokusai" ("Hokusai, the man mad aboutpainting"), omparison ith other w c survivingprints by Shinsai show it to be by him. The existence of anotherversion of the samescene by Hokusai'spupil Hokuju,however,suggeststhat the design may haveoriginated in a lost work by Hokusai.19 Imaginary views of Europe, such as S UtagawaToyoharu's ceneof a Canal in Holland (fig. 8), continuedto be popularinto the earlynineteenthcentury.One of the rarestof suchprintsis Utagawa(Ichiryuisai) unitora's K Pictureof a Dutch Ship Enteringthe Harbor of the Island of Rhodes (fig. 14),datingto the T 182os.20 his bizarreprint, colored primarily with importedPrussian-blue igment(known p at the time as Berurinai, or "Berlinblue"),is without doubt one of the strangestimagesin the history of Ukiyo-e. An oddly anachronistic and Asiatic Colossus towers over the harbor of Rhodes and an incoming Dutch kraak (galleon) sailing toward port. This image surely fueled notions of the West as a place full of fantasticcreations.The presence of the Dutch ship andthe ingenuousJapanese titlebeliethe factthatthe Colossusof Rhodes was destroyedin antiquity.21 The source of this image can probably be tracedto a detailin the borderof a world map (fig. i5) designedby the greatDutch carT tographerWillem J. Blaeu (1571-1638). his masterpiece, Nova Totius TerrarumOrbis Geographicaac HydrographicaTabula,was first printedin 16o6,and enjoyedmany subsequentprintings.By the eighteenthcentury, it was commonly reproduced in book or album format, and it was probably in this form that it madeits way to Japan.The image of the Colossus of Rhodes, appearingin the lower left borderas one of the SevenWonders of the Ancient World, is essentiallyidentical to Kunitora'simage, including the detail of the ship.22That Blaeu's map was known in Japanin the earlynineteenth enturyis further c suggestedby a print by Utagawa(Ichiunsai) Kuninaga(1788-1829) (fig. 16).23The firstpart of...
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