August 25, 2011
November 06, 2011
The Robert F. Lange Foundation Gallery (21)
While Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) is best known for his evocative landscapes, he also designed bird-and-flower prints during the latter period of his career. Along with birds and flowers, the genre also includes depictions of various plants, fish and other small animals and insects. The subjects of bird-and-flower painting (and later prints) usually have specific seasonal and other symbolic associations; for example, migrating geese indicate autumn, and by extension the sadness of parting from friends or traveling afar.
Hiroshige drew on a wide range of influences, from his early training in the Kanö School to the Western-influenced styles of the Nagasaki and Shijö Schools, which emphasized the importance of direct observation and sketching from nature. The artist’s eclecticism is perhaps nowhere better manifested than in the bird-and-flower prints from his mature period, which combine the solid academism of his Kanö School training with vibrant brushstrokes (masterfully translated into the print medium) and a lifelike sense of movement. At once decorative and rich in historical-cultural significance, the bird-and-flower genre became increasingly popular among commoners during the Edo period, and found new audiences in the Europeans and Americans who began to collect Japanese prints during the late 19th to early 20th centuries.
-Sawako Takemura Chang, Assistant Curator of Japanese Art & Robert F. Lange Foundation Digital Imagaing Project Manager