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Views of Edo Japan

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Ando Hiroshige (aka Hiroshige), Japanese, (1797–1858)
One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: 106, Fukagawa Lumberyards, 1856
Ink on Paper
13 3/8 in. x 8 3/4 in. (33.97 cm. x 22.23 cm.)


Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Edo (Japan, 1615-1868)
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Frederick S. Bailey
Accession Number: 54.1.48


Alternate Title: Meisho Edo hyakkei: Fukagawa, Kiba

Bibliography
Smith II, Henry D. and Amy G. Poster.  Hiroshige 1797-1858  One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.  New York:  George Braziller, Inc., 1986.

Marks
On verso in pencil: Bai II 27. On mat in pencil: Hiroshige 100 Views of Edo #106 Fukagawa Lumberyards BAI II 27. Signed: Hiroshige hitsu. Censor's seal: Aratame and date seal (half trimmed, possibly Mi-hachi).

Medium
Nishiki-e, vertical oban; colored ink on paper.

Object Description
Color woodblock print with an image of a snow scene, with a river running through lumberyards at Fukugawa.

In this, one of several famous snow scenes in the "Winter" group, Hiroshige offers an evocative view within the lumberyards of the Fukagawa area.  It is a compositional tour de force in the intricate balance of interlocked diagonals and vertical accents.  The deep blue of the water (missing, as is the wisp of black cloud, in late impressions) establishes the curving axis.  The leaning poles and near banks echo its movement, as does the descending zigzag of paired life forms: two sparrows, two loggers, two puppies, and finally the artist and us, gazing over the scene from under the pale yellow umbrella at the bottom, personalized with the "fish" mark of the publisher Uoei.

So perfect is the composition and so lyrical the effect that one would scarcely imagine this to be a real place.  It is clearly derived, however, from a wider view in the Ehon Edo miyage (vol. II), whose detail and conception suggest that the artist was working from direct observation.  It would be difficult, to be sure, to pinpoint the location, given the complexity of the bridge and canal system of the Kiba district, but it is an important reminder that Hiroshige depicted real places, however idealized they may appear.

This particular place was of great economic importance to Edo; it was one site of the yards where the huge supply of lumber that was needed for repairing and rebuilding in the world's largest wooden city was stored.  In early Edo, lumber was kept closer to the center of town, but in the wake of a fire in 1641 that destroyed not only houses but the lumber needed to rebuild them, the bakufu ordered the yards removed to the Fukagawa district east of the Sumida.  A single unified lumber-storage area was eventually constructed, officially christened Fukagawa Kiba ("wood place") in 1703.  The lumber was stored primarily in ponds, which together with connecting canals accounted for more than three-fourths of the total area of some 100 acres.  For transportation to and from the Kiba, lumber was lashed into rafts and poled by the skilled loggers known as kawanami, two of whom may be seen here, wearing straw capes and manipulating the logs with their long poles.

The Fukagawa lumberyards survived until the mid-1970's, by which time the overpumping of ground water for industrial use had caused the land to subside, reducing the clearance under bridges and obstructing the passage of the lumber boats.  A new and more modern facility was constructed on the reclaimed land of Dream Island (Yumenoshima) to the south.  Today, much of the lumber arrives by ship from all parts of the world and is then transported by truck, so that this kind of lyrical scene, so central to the Fukagawa image, is gone forever.  Kiba survives as a place name, however, and the heart of the lumberyards of Hiroshige's day corresponds to the present Kiba 2-chome.

Publisher
Uoei (Uo-ya Eikichi).

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