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11 / The Urban Experience

Night View of Saruwaka-machi (Saruwaka-machi Yoru no Kei) from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)
Night View of Saruwaka-machi (Saruwaka-machi Yoru no Kei) from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)
Artist / Origin Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858)
Region: East Asia
Date 1856
Material Color woodblock print
Dimensions H: 13 ¼ in. (33.8 cm.), W: 8 2/3 in. (22.5 cm.)
Location Musée Claude Monet, Giverny, France
Credit Courtesy of Giraudon/Bridgeman Art Library

expert perspective

Julie Nelson DavisAssociate Professor of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

Night View of Saruwaka-machi (Saruwaka-machi Yoru no Kei) from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)

» Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858)

expert perspective

Julie Nelson Davis Julie Nelson Davis Associate Professor of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

Edo is today known as Tokyo. And by the late eighteenth century, 1.3 million people lived in Edo, possibly making it one of the largest cities in the world. It also becomes a center of ukiyo-e printing. Ukiyo-e, or ‘images from the floating world,’ were produced for the people who are living in the city. These pictures showed things from everyday life—the entertainments and pleasures that people pursued and enjoyed. They’re produced in large quantities at a very low price. All printed by hand, so each color is applied through a separate woodblock.

The word itself, ukiyo-e, derives from a Buddhist concept that has to do with the evanescence of life, of how quickly life passes by. In the seventeenth century it came to be used to describe this world of temporary pleasures and distractions.

Edo was one of the cleanest cities of the period, much cleaner than London or Paris, and I think you see that in these pictures, but I don’t think that their interest is really in documenting the city as sort of recording what it was like, but in kind of celebrating what it was like.” 

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