Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Utagawa Kuniyoshi

by Sarah Thompson




Originally published in 1852 and 1853, The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido is a richly entertaining series of woodblock prints created by master artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (Japanese, 1797-1861). The seventy-two finely executed prints include one for each resting point along the well-traveled Kisokaido (Kiso Road)-a historic route stretching from Edo (modern Tokyo) to Kyoto-plus views of the two endpoint cities and an additional series title page. Kuniyoshi never traveled the mountainous Kisokaido, but he drew from historic events, kabuki plays, popular legends, and classical literature to illustrate his vision of the towns and stations along the road.

This stunning collection of colorful ukiyo-e prints exhibits Kuniyoshi's artistic mastery and clever sense of humor. Each work incorporates three elements: the main picture, an inset landscape depicting the particular station, and a title block. Using parody and pun (both for humor and to avoid government censorship), Kuniyoshi associated each point on the route with one of the most beloved stories of his day-from a reimagined Odyssey to the Japanese fairy tale of Urashima to popular kabuki scenes with courtesans and other "floating world" characters. He made that story the subject of the main picture and put clues to its identity in the title block. Kuniyoshi delighted in these hidden messages and used every inch of the paper to tell his story.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi: The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido celebrates the beauty, charm, and ingenuity of Kuniyoshi's work with more than seventy-five full-color illustrations, including reproductions of all the prints in the treasured series. Sarah E. Thompsonprovides an introductory essay on the history of ukiyo-e and a description of each print.

Sarah E. Thompson, Assistant Curator for Japanese Prints at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, received her PhD from Columbia University. She taught Japanese and Asian art history at Vassar College, Oberlin College, and the University of Oregon and curated several exhibitions of Japanese prints before coming to the MFA in 2004. She is now supervising the Japanese Print Access and Documentation Project, whose ultimate goal is to photograph and catalogue all fifty thousand Japanese prints in the MFA collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764948893
Publisher: Pomegranate Art Books, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/01/2009
Pages: 164
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.90(d)

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
catarina1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
During Edo era Japan a network of roads were established connecting Edo, the site of the shoganate, and Kyoto, the home of the emperor, and was maintained as a way of controlling transport of people and goods through the country. The main roads were the Tokaido, along the coast, and the Kisokaido, through the mountains. The post stations along each served as checkpoints as well as providing accomodations and food for the travelers.Over time the roads and the post stations became the subject of fiction as well as wood block prints. Two of the series of prints of the Kisokaido appeared in book form in recent years. One, by Hiroshige and Eisen, was originally printed between 1834 and 1843. Another, by Kuniyoshi, appeared in print in 1852-53. The former is probably the most known and is in the landscape style. The second, which is the subject of this book by Sara E. Thompson, includes instead of the artist's visual interpretation of the post station but stories from legends, dramas, fiction associated with the post stations. Of note, there is no evidence that any of these artists actually viewed the Kisokaido.Ms Thompson presents a very thorough introduction to Kuniyoshi's series, places it in context of Edo-era prints, gives much information about the history and culture. The prints are small but excellent in reproduction quality. Each print is accompanied by the story of the image, how it relates to the post station. This book is a great contribution to the knowledge of wood block prints as well as providing the reader with much information about the Japanese culture.
nobooksnolife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This sumptuous book brings together over 70 full-page, full color reproductions of Utagawa Kuniyoshi's woodblock prints with another 80-or-so pages of fluid, concise text to make a beautiful package of Japanese art and history which is sure to please artists, historians, manga fanatics, Japanophiles and curiosity seekers.I received this book from Pomegranate Communications as part of the Early Reviewer Program on LT. It was packaged with the publisher's catalog, which was so interesting that I spent most of an afternoon reading all the listings. It's worth your time to 'Google' them and check out their catalog online.
Larxol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This marvelous edition of Utagawa Kuniyoshi¿s series of prints does much more than provide a quality reproduction of the justly famous artwork. It is a fine art book, with vibrant colors crisply printed on heavy stock and sewn signatures, but the real value of the work is the exhaustive but lightly presented scholarship. The Introduction to the volume and the text accompanying each print give the modern reader some sense of the delight the artist had in producing the prints and what made them so popular in pre-Meiji Japan.
Sarah E. Thompson, now Assistant Curator for Japanese Prints at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, acknowledges her debt to other scholars, particularly Iwakiri Mayumi, at what is now the Ukiyo-e Tokyo Museum. However, although it has a good bibliography, this is not a book full of scholarly apparatus. Instead, the page of text opposite each print lets us in on what the contemporary viewer would have seen.
Each picture has the name of one of the way-stations on mountain route between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto, the old imperial capital. But these are not landscapes or a travelogue. For each one, Kuniyoshi illustrates a scene from a story or a play that would have been familiar to his audience. The particular story might be linked by some landscape feature or, more often, an awful pun on the place name. Thompson¿s explication isn¿t a lecture or a lesson, it just lets us in on the joke. Each print has its own story and there¿s no need to read them all at once or in any particular order. But you¿ll find them addictive, once you start.
JoanP60615 More than 1 year ago
Some years ago, I was browsing through a rack at what has become my best source for inexpensive kimono, haori and obi. Of course, the linings are often the best part, and on looking at the lining of one man's haori, I found an image of a man chasing a hat in a wind storm. I did not know at the time what it was, only that it was beautiful and unusual. But a few years later, at an exhibition of Japanese art, I discovered that it was a rendering of one of Hiroshige's Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido - specifically, Yokkaichi from the Hoeido edition. Thus began my fascination with Japanese woodblock prints (aided and abetted, I might add, by being in close proximity to the Art Institute of Chicago's Clarence Buckingham Collection of Japanese Prints) Sarah Thompson's book, describing the prints of Kuniyoshi's Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kisokaido from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts' William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, is quite simply one of the finest books on the subject that I have come across, for a number of reasons. Of course, the quality of reproduction is of prime importance in any book about art, and the reproductions in this book are excellent. The lines are sharp, and this is critical, because each print has a series title bordered with images related to the print, and each has an inset landscape the design of which also relates to the images. Any blurring of the lines would detract from the reader-viewer's ability to see and appreciation those relationships. The colors, too, are well-reproduced, of particular benefit in prints such as No. 38 (Fukushima) and No. 43 (Tsumagome), which contain images of dreams or ghosts. Like the Tokaido, the Kisokaido linked Kyoto, the ancient capital, with Edo (now Tokyo), but by an inland, rather than a coastal, route. All these official routes had designated posts which were required to provide facilities to travelers. There were sixty-nine of the Kisokaido, so the woodblock series consists of seventy-one images (one of each station, and one for each of the cities that was an endpoint). Kuniyoshi's prints, however, are more than mere landscape images of the stations. In fact, as noted above, those landscapes are presented as an inset in the larger print. The main content of each is drawn from Japanese history and folklore, with the connection to the particular station being made sometimes straightforwardly, as where the action of the story depicted occurred in or near the area, and sometimes through punning on the place names and names of people and places in the stories. Thompson explicates the connection in short, but information-packed, essays on the facing pages. The reader will learn as much about the history and folklore of Japan as she will about the prints themselves, and the scholar will appreciate Thompson's identification of each print, not only by title, but by publisher, date and censors' seals. I must comment, too, on the construction and design of the book. It's a dust-jacketed hardback, and very sturdily put together, with the sections sewn (I see too many hardbacks these days that are merely glued, and fall apart too quickly!) and endsheets firmly attached. As mentioned, the colors are beautiful, but I want to note also the design of the small panel with the print number that accompanies Ms. Thompson's essays; it's a small, but telling, indication of the attention to detail that makes this book so valuable. There's a good index and a good bibliography, too.