Lyrical Landscapes: Japanese Woodblock Prints of the 19th and 20th Centuries


A new exhibition presented by Anastasia von Seibold Japanese Art presents a selection of Japanese woodblock prints featuring landscapes of Japan as seen through the eyes of 19th and 20th century artists including Utagawa Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai and Kawase Hasui.

During the early 19th century travel for pleasure became more accessible, especially amongst Japan’s increasingly wealthy urban citizens looking for an escape from everyday life. This aspiration of leisure travel was in part stimulated by the appearance of guidebooks featuring illustrations of famous places which would popularise travel in general. However, travel of any kind was still not without its challenges – poor weather and difficult terrain were most likely enough to deter many would-be travellers, who were happy to participate vicariously through books and prints.

Top: Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Snowy Morning in the Yoshiwara, from the series Famous Places in the Eastern Capital, woodblock print, circa 1847-52, 36.7 x 24.2 cm.

Above: Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), The Poet Abe no Nakamaro, from the series One Hundred Poems, Explained by the Nurse, woodblock print, circa 1835-36, 25.2 x 37.5 cm

By the 1830s printed images of landscapes as well as scenes of famous places had become very popular and a boom in landscape prints occurred. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) were at the forefront of the genre producing iconic images that became of focal interest to the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters in the West.

Left: Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Horikiri Iris Garden, from the series One Hundred Famous Places of Edo, woodblock print, 1857, 35.5 x 23.9 cm. Right: Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Fukagawa Susaki and Jumatsubo, from the series One Hundred Famous Places of Edo, woodblock print, 1857, 35.5 x 23.7 cm.

The genre was continued into the 20th century by a new group of artists including Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) who were part of the Shin-hanga (“new prints”) movement which sought to revitalise the tradition of woodblock printing rooted in the ukiyo-e of the Edo and Meiji periods (17th – 19th century).

Kawase Hasui (1883-1957), Snow at Shiba Park, Tokyo, woodblock print, 1931, 26 x 39.3 cm

Discover more about these works in the exhibition Lyrical Landscapes, presented by Anastasia von Seibold Japanese Art which runs from 18 - 22 May, 2022. 


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