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Night Snow at Kanbara

Utagawa Hiroshige

It has been discussed by many expects, all too frequently, that Hiroshige's series of Tokaido Gojusan-tsugi (Fifty-three Stations on the Tokaido Highway), published by the Hoeido around 1833 and featuring impressive depiction of beautiful sights of nature along the highway, left epoch-making footprints in the history of ukiyo-e landscape prints. There is little if any room left for redundancy, but I should like to add just one comment, that the charm of Hiroshige's landscape prints is, in my personal interpretation, rooted in his taste for haiku (Japanese 17-syllable poem). This I feel especially in this particular piece of Kambara, which has won very high evaluation in the Tokaido set.
It is believed that Hiroshige's trip along the Tokaido took place when he was included in the retinue of the official messenger of the Bakufu (central feudal government in Edo, the present Tokyo) carrying horses to be presented to the Emperor in Kyoto. Because this custom of presenting horses to the Emperor was a periodical event occurring on the Hassaku (the first of August), it is hardly possible that the trip, either to or back from Kyoto, should have covered a snow season. Kambara was a post town without any historical background or noteworthy scenic beauty, so that Hiroshige could give free play to his lyrical imagination. His literary interest in haikai, as reflected in the poetic inscriptions in his flower-and-bird prints, probably served as a motivating agent for this snowscape.
Remarkable is the plastic sense of the artist who has succeeded in expressing quiet snowfall in the night through carbon-ink grey and the white ground color of the paper base. The poses of the passers by, continuing their wary steps as they part, are well expressive of movement receding gradually into the distance. It is no wonder that this piece ranks high, not in the Tokaido set but among Hiroshige's snowscapes in general.
This design has two varieties, one with horizontal bokashi (fade-off shading) from the sky downward, and the other with the bokashi in opposite way, that is from the horizon upward. Opinions differ as to which of the two was published ealier, and which is higher in artistic quality. The variety with the downward bokashi is more numerous in the number of existing copies, suggesting probably that this type was the earlier impression.

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Night Snow at Kanbara

29,800 JPY (included Japanese consumption tax)



Adachi Prints Institute

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