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10 / The Natural World

Suijin Shrine and Massaki on Sumida River from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo
Suijin Shrine and Massaki on Sumida River from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo
Artist / Origin Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858)
Region: East Asia
Date Edo Period, 1856
Material Woodblock print
Dimensions H: 13 3/8 in. (34 cm.), W: 9 in. (22.8 cm)
Location Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Credit © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, UK/Bridgeman Art Library

expert perspective

Karen SherryAssistant Curator of American Art, Brooklyn Museum

Additional Resources

Calza, Gian Carlo, et al. Ukiyo-e. London: Phaidon, 2007.

Forrer, Matthi. Hiroshige: Prints and Drawings. With essays by Suzuki Jūzō and Henry D. Smith II. Munich; New York: Prestel, 1997.

Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. Introductory essays by Henry D. Smith II and Amy G. Poster. New York: George Braziller, in association with the Brooklyn Museum, 2000.

“Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.” In Exhibitions. Brooklyn Museum Web site. http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/online/edo.

Mather, Cotton, P.P. Karan, and Shigeru Iijima. Japanese Landscapes: Where Land and Culture Merge. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1998.

Oka, Isaburo. Hiroshige: Japan’s Great Landscape Artist. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1997.

Stanley-Baker, Joan. Japanese Art, rev. and expanded ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000.

Suijin Shrine and Massaki on Sumida River from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

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

Suijin Shrine and Massaki on the Sumida River is number 35 of the 118 woodblock prints constituting Hiroshige’s series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.

Although the title refers to the “grove of the water god” nestled among the trees on the lower right edge of the print, the true subject here is the landscape. The image is divided into three sections devoted to the green earth, the river, and the sky, respectively. In the center of the work, Mount Tsukuba, its base surrounded by clouds or mist, aids the transition from water to sky. The trunk of a cherry tree with flowering branches frames the scene.

In Suijin Shrine, miniscule figures on the road to the left and boats on the river suggest activities undertaken during a particular time of year, and the open cherry blossoms that visually dominate the scene confirm that it is spring. Well-known places in and around Edo (present-day Tokyo) often had seasonal associations and the practice of linking certain motifs with certain seasons had a long history in Japanese art. Although Hiroshige followed these conventions in many of the scenes from One Hundred Famous Views, he reinvigorated them through his skillful rendering of atmospheric effects.

In the nineteenth century, landscapes emerged as a major theme in the print genre known as ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” a development that was concurrent with Edo’s rapid growth under the Tokugawa shogunate. Contributing to the city’s growing population (already over one million in the eighteenth century) was a law requiring daiymo, or regional military lords, to spend part of every year in residence at the de facto capital. At the same time, the city of Edo was cultivating a reputation as a hub of entertainment, urban culture, and leisure that made it a popular travel destination. In order to accommodate this influx of people (and perhaps to encourage more), five extensive highways leading into the city were constructed. Hiroshige dedicated an earlier print series to stations along one of these roads—the Tôkaido. The cheap cost of prints like those in the Tôkaido or One Hundred Famous Views series made them accessible to the masses. Although residents of Edo might have purchased such images, they probably held greater appeal for tourists and for those individuals who could not afford the trip at all, but were enticed by the city and its surroundings nonetheless.

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