San Francisco

“Hiroshige Prints”

James G. Kelley Gallery

Hiroshige made several pil­grimages, drawing the landscape as he went, and these drawings were the sub­ject of a series of prints. Many of his most well known prints are from his views of Fuji which he drew on a tour all the way around the mountain. Some are vast panoramas, and others are trifling puns which have to do mostly with the foreground. For example, one in this collection has a huge Chinese chair (in chairless Japan) beside a rock mounted with a torii which is much smaller than the chair. His line was simple and direct, and always in char­acter with the object illustrated. A tree would be indicated by rough bark-like lines, a boat by sharp, smooth lines with great variety from thick to thin, like strokes from calligraphy. Shortly after his death Japan moved out of its long and surprisingly fertile period of isolation. Hiroshige was one of the artists with the greatest appeal to the West. The Ukiyo-e printmakers of Japan worked in an environment with quite different attitudes about art than those current today. The artist presented his drawings to a publisher who had arti­sans carve and print them. The wood­blocks were not usually destroyed, nor the prints limited in quantity. The prints in this exhibition were printed long after Hiroshige was dead, though not recently—they are slightly faded and thus have about them an antique character.

Knute Stiles