Eight Views of Omi


Eight Views of Omi
Print set

Ando Hiroshige


Print is Public Domain; Photography is:   Creative Commons License


Text from the publisher's pamphlet:


By Ando Hiroshige Nishiki-e, large print size

HIROSHIGE ESTABLISHED HIS reputation with the publication of the series of 'Fifty-three Stations on the Tokaido.' Earlier he had given a preview of his approaching mastery with the series of 'Famous Places in the Eastern Capital,' signed with his early name Ichiyusai. During the Tempo era (1830-1844) he achieved a reputation as a landscape designer equal to that of Hokusai, whose great works, 'Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji' and 'One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji,' were published at about the same time.

The landscape print developed in the latter part of the Tokugawa period. At that time there was a growing popular interest in places of scenic or historic note. However, travel was still hindered by many difficulties and restrictions, and so the landscape prints probably served in somewhat the same way as travel books serve the 'armchair traveler' today.

In 1832, at the age of 36, Hiroshige joined a party which was traveling from Edo to Kyoto over the Tokaido highway, to present a horse to the emperor. He drew sketches on this journey which later became the basis for his famous Tékaid6 series and certain supplementary series published a little later. Hiroshige possessed a keen eye and an inquiring mind; he was interested not only in the natural beauty of his subjects, but also in the human activity, the history and legends, the arts and crafts - in short, in every aspect of the places he visited.

By the spring of 1834 Hiroshige had completed the Tokaido prints, and he drew some supplementary series, also based on his Tokaido journey - the 'Enoshima Road on the Tokaido,' a small series published by Hoeido; the 'Famous Places of Kyoto' and 'Famous Places of Osaka,' two series of ten prints each, published by Eisendo; and the 'Eight Views of Omi' (the series reproduced here), which was published by Hoeido and Eikyudo.

According to the publisher's advertisement contained in the colophon of the album of Tokaido prints (published in the spring of 1834), the Tokaido series had been deliberately planned to feature the use of ink lines, together with a sparing use of color. This was a departure from the richly colored prints which had been popular in the latter part of the eighteenth century and in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and it was perhaps a deliberate return to the basic principles of linearity and simple coloring which had characterized the Japanese print in its early period. Hiroshige's landscapes were thus given a certain distinction. Another point of distinction has been noted by Juzo Suzuki in his recent book on Hiroshige: the occasional handling of mountain scenery in an abstract, summary way. Suzuki traces the influence of Tani Buncho in such designs, but it is also undoubtedly an indication that Hiroshige kept seeking new methods in order to extend his expressive range.

The theme of 'eight views' can be traced back to the classical Chinese series, Hsiao Hsiang pa ching ('Eight Views of the Hsiao and Hsiang Rivers,' in Hunan province, China). It is said that the first drawings of the 'eight views' were made by the artist So Teki and appeared in a book entitled Mukei Hitsudan, published during the Sung dynasty. Subsequently the 'eight views' became very popular in China, and eventually the theme was introduced to Japan. The first adaptation in Japan was to Omi (Lake Biwa), and the 'Eight Views of Omi' are first mentioned in the diary of the court-noble Masaie Konoe (1444-1505). In later years the theme spread out in the literature and art of Japan, and eventually it became part of what might be called the essential fabric of Japanese culture.

With the enormous proliferation of landscape prints in the nineteenth century, the 'Eight Views of Omi' remained one of the most popular subjects. During his working career of forty years, Hiroshige designed no fewer than twenty-four series of 'Eight Views of Omi,' but the most remarkable and most important of them was the series published by Hoeido and Eikyudo, which is reproduced here.

Evidently Hiroshige devoted a great deal of thought and effort to this set of prints. The designs were conceived on an altogether higher level than any of his earlier landscapes. The informality and sketchiness occasionally found in the first Tokaido series and in the Kyoto and Osaka series gave way here to a classical conception of landscape. The human touches which often formed an important part of the earlier landscapes were reduced to a minimum in the 'Eight Views of Omi.' It is true that signs of human activity can be discovered in all eight of the designs, but one often has to search very carefully to find them. In the bold, dignified handling of the subjects, there was clearly an attempt by the artist to recapture the grandeur and monumentality of classical Oriental art.

The prints are signed 'Hiroshige ga' (the latter meaning 'drawn by'), and the signatures are followed by seals of the publishers. The views of Karasaki, Mt. Hira, and Katada were published by Eikyudo; the others were published by Hoeido. Each print bears two cartouches (upper left or right): a red panel showing the series title, and a square cartouche (with graded color decorations) showing the individual title and the poem traditionally associated with that view. The poems are in classical form, and the shape and placement of the cartouches seem to have been deliberately planned to convey a classical feeling.



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