Urban Landscapes and Hiroshige
I am a HUGE fan of urban landscape. I think it’s that nature by itself is kind of boring most of the time, I mean how many pictures of waterfalls, trees or mountains can you look at? But add the human element, people, houses, boats or bridges, then it’s something that I can relate to.
The human factor influences the landscape and allows me to participate in some manner. In the world of woodblock prints, there is an added dimension of time. A time that for me is both exotic and bucolic. Even with the most simplistic images of people and houses, I can imagine myself on that road, or living in that town hundreds of years ago.
This is why I gravitate towards Hiroshige, my favorite Ukiyo-e artist. In fact in college I wrote a minor thesis on his work. The majority of his prints contain a compelling balance of nature and man. Nature is usually more dominant but man’s presence is always there. My other favorite factor is his lack of pretension. Man is not depicted as master of his/her surroundings. Often the figures are seen from such a distance as to make them stick-like but they still have a purpose.
Hiroshige’s treatment of the majority of his work speaks to a great love of both man and nature. He finds, and we can see, the humor he injects into his work. When the figures reach mid ground they appear cartoonish, with funny natural faces, faces of common people, people with personality. The grimace of the working man, the focus of the gourd maker, the salesmanship of the shop owner, the curiosity of the traveller.
I also enjoy prints from artists that have similar sensibilities with their themes, and compositions. Artists like Hokusai (of course) and those that followed in Hiroshige’s footsteps, like Hiroshige II.
So you will see that we collect a lot of urban landscape, and Hiroshige’s work. I am continually finding prints that I have never seen before. Hiroshige was prolific with 8,000+ prints to his name. As you might guess I am most fond of the urban landscape themes of the Tokkaido and similar series.