There are originals, reproductions, and then there are reproductions by the Takamizawa publishing company.
This publishing company, known within the industry primarily for their reproductions, is also known for the quality of those reproductions, While derided as a “scoundrel” for their efforts, their artists would painstakingly recreate woodblocks as well as developing methods for replicating the actual woodgrain of the original blocks. Those woodblocks were made using the traditions and methods of the period in which the originals were made, working to capture every original detail and color.
This specific piece is a woodblock reprint of Utagawa Hiroshige’s “Fireworks at Ryogoku Bridge” from the series “Famous View of the Eastern Capital” by publisher Takamizawa. This is a reprint likely from around 1950, recarved on woodblocks and printed on Japanese washi paper.
A good opportunity to get a high-quality old reprint of a beautiful print by Hiroshige.
The Woodblock Print
This is a crisp reproduction woodblock with strong colors on Japanese washi paper in clean condition. There is tape on the back and margins from where it was tacked to a matting and frame, but this does not affect the image itself and would likely be taped over when framed. Clean, clear margins. Good bleed-through and publisher mark on the verso. Visible woodgrain throughout. Printed image size is 7 1/4″ by 11 3/4″.
Born in Edo as Tokutaro Ando, Hiroshige grew up in a minor samurai family. His father belonged to the firefighting force assigned to Edo Castle. It is here that Hiroshige was given his first exposure to art: legend has it that a fellow fireman tutored him in the Kano school of painting, though Hiroshige’s first official teacher was Rinsai. Though Hiroshige tried to join Utagawa Toyokuni’s studio, he was turned away. In 1811, young Hiroshige entered an apprenticeship with the celebrated Utagawa Toyohiro. After only a year, he was bestowed with the artist name Hiroshige. He soon gave up his role in the fire department to focus entirely on painting and print design. During this time he studied painting, intrigued by the Shijo school. Hiroshige’s artistic genius went largely unnoticed until 1832.
In Hiroshige’s groundbreaking series of woodblock prints, The 53 Stations of the Tokaido (1832-1833), Hiroshige captured the journey along the Tokaido road, the highway connecting Edo to Kyoto, the imperial capital. With the Tokugawa Shogunate relaxing centuries of age-old restrictions on travel, urban populations embraced travel art and Hiroshige became one of the most prominent and successful ukiyo-e artists. He also produced kacho-e (bird-and-flower pictures) to enormous success. In 1858, at the age of 61, he passed away as a result of the Edo cholera epidemic.
Hiroshige’s prints continue to convey the beauty of Japan and provide insight into the everyday life of its citizens. The appeal of his tender, lyrical landscapes was not restricted to the Japanese audience. Hiroshige’s work had a profound influence on the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists of Europe: Toulouse-Lautrec was fascinated with Hiroshige’s daring diagonal compositions and inventive use of perspective, Van Gogh literally copied two prints from Hiroshige’s famed series, 100 Famous Views of Edo in oil paint.