Kawasaki: the Rokugô Ferry (Rokugô no watashi), from the series The Tôkaidô Road – The Fifty-three Stations (Tôkaidô – Gojûsan tsugi no uchi), from the Kichizo version of the series, ca.
A bridge originally crossed the Tama River, but from time to time the bridge was washed out, and during the period from 1688-1704 the crossing was made by boat. Placing the viewer in Rokugo on the Edo side of the river this picture looking out upon the shoreline on the Kawasaki side. The passengers are relaxing in the boat. We can see what appear to be other passengers waiting for the ferry on the shore.
The Woodblock Print
This woodblock from ca. 1850-51 measures approximately 7″x10″ on very thin original paper and is in very good condition, especially considering its age. Strong colors and good bleed-through to its unbacked verso. A small wormhole in the left margin, and a tiny .5cm tear in the upper right margin are the only flaws to this print.
About the Artist
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.