Simply the Best
A Shining Light on   Broadway



Ric Burns '78
Ronald Mason Jr. '74
Victor Wouk '39
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One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige, Fukagawa Susaki Jumantsubo, c. 1857. Woodblock print, color on paper, 133-8 x 81-2" (image). Brooklyn Museum of Art Collection.

A member of the samurai class and a hereditary retainer of the Tokugawa shogunate, Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) began studying ukiyo-e art (depictions of daily life) while a teenager. In addition to his main occupation as a fireman protecting the nearby Edo Castle, he became one of the most celebrated artists of nineteenth-century Japan, known for his expressive use of color, skillful compositions and influence on artists in Japan and the West.

"Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo," which was on display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art from February 18 to April 23, 2000, showed the full scope of Hiroshige's craft. Executed between 1856 and 1858, this series (which actually numbers 118) - here illustrated by Fukagawa Susaki Jumantsubo and Yoroi Ferry - is recognized as a prime example of ukiyo-e art and one of the most famous depictions of Edo (modern Tokyo). "It is the first time that the Brooklyn Museum has ever shown the complete set at once," says Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures Henry D. Smith II. "In the end, Hiroshige went beyond the promised 100 of the title and might have gone further still had the series not been terminated by his death in the cholera epidemic of 1858."

Even though Smith is teaching history at the Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies in Japan this year, he has a special interest in the exhibit. In 1986, when the Brooklyn Museum decided to display a selection of the prints in four separate shows, Smith, then a professor at the University of California, was asked to co-write the text for the accompanying catalogue. It was subsequently translated into several languages, including Japanese, and has become the standard reference on Hiroshige and these prints. In the Brooklyn exhibit, Smith's catalogue text has been used in the descriptions that accompanied the prints. (Art publisher George Braziller has reissued the catalogue for the new exhibit.) Smith also contributed an article on Hiroshige for a special issue the art journal Orientations, published in conjunction with several New York museums.

"The BMA set of Hiroshige's '100 Views' remains one of the most satisfying research projects of my career as a historian of Japan," says Smith.

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