Utagawa Hiroshige – Flourshing City, The Tanabata Festival


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Additional information


Hiroshige, Utagawa (Andō)


(A) Very Fine Condition




Lifetime, Early Edition




Uoya Eikichi


Oban (10"x15")


Cityscape, Landscape

The Tanabata Festival, celebrated annually on the seventh day of the Seventh Month, derived from an ancient Chinese legend about the Celestial Weaving Girl (the star Vega) who crosses the Milky Way once a year to meet her beloved Cowherd (Altair). By the late Edo period, the Festival had developed into a huge outdoor display of inscribed, multicolored sheets of paper and auspicious paper symbols attached to long green bamboo poles. Although this is the only print in the series that does not specify a place in the title, it represents the view from a very specific, very personal place: Hiroshige’s own house.

From the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (in Japanese: 名所江戸百景, romanized: Meisho Edo Hyakkei), a series of 119 ukiyo-e prints begun and largely completed by the Hiroshige (1797–1858). The prints were first published in serialized form in 1856–59, with Hiroshige II completing the series after Hiroshige’s death. It was tremendously popular and much reprinted.

The Woodblock Print

This oban-sized woodblock print is in very fine condition; good color, minimal edge wear, and a clean verso with good bleedthrough. Equivalent to the MFA copy. Beautiful intact yellows and greens, unfaded.

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.