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Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge at Atake

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Ando Hiroshige (aka Hiroshige), Japanese, (1797–1858)
Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge at Atake, 1857
Ink on Paper
13 5/16 in. x 8 11/16 in. (33.81 cm x 22.07 cm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Edo (Japan, 1615-1868)
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. James W. Johnson
Accession Number: 2019

Alternate Title: Meisho Edo hyakkei: Ohashi, Atake no yudachi
Full Title: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: 52, Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge at Atake

The woodblock print, Sudden Shower on Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake, is by one of Japan's foremost artists, Ando Hiroshige. Designed in 1857 as part of his series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo”, the image depicts pedestrians caught in a late summer downpour as they cross a bridge in Edo (now Tokyo). Hiroshige's strong sense of composition and his ability to design printed rain so that we can almost feel it lashing down on us has made this print one of his most celebrated images, and it inspired Vincent van Gogh to create a copy in oils thirty years later.

Meher McArthur, Meher McArthur, Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Curator of Academic Programs and Collections

Seals in upper right (4), and lower left (2).

Colored ink on off-white paper; woodblock print.

Object Description
Color woodblock print with an image of figures crossing the Ohashi bridge in the rain.

We can almost hear the crack of thunder as the rolling black clouds burst into sheets of heavy rain, scattering the huddled shapes on the bridge below.  On the blue-gray expanse of the Sumida, a solitary boatman poles his log raft downstream, impervious to the storm.  This is a yudachi (an "evening descent" of the thunder god, as one etymology has it), a summer rain in which the heavens suddenly darken late in the day, releasing torrents of rain in large drops, and then quickly clear.

This print is the undisputed masterpiece of the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.  It bears comparison in its universal appeal with another of Hiroshige's most famous landscapes, "Shono" in The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido, with which it shares the theme of escape from a sudden rain.  Together with the view of the Kameido plum tree it was also accorded the honor of a copy in oil by Van Gogh.

The immediate appeal of this dramatic composition is enhanced by finely wrought details.  The irregular pattern of the black clouds above reveals to a rare degree the spontaneous hand of the printer, differing visibly from one print to another.  The torrent of rain turns out on close inspection to be an overlay of black on gray at slightly different angles, some lines broken, others extending the length of the composition.  The six figures on the bridge offer a lively diversity of ways to escape from the rain, in ones, twos, and threes, under hats, mats, and umbrellas, in one direction and another.

Although the particular place is relatively unimportant to the appeal of this print, it is as usual a very specific site, looking northeast over Shin-Ohashi, or New Great Bridge - named on its completion in 1693 with reference to the existing Ohashi (later Ryogoku Bridge) to the north.  The Atake of the title was an informal place name for the area shown on the far bank, which was named after a gigantic bakufu ship, the 1,500-ton Atake-maru, which was moored in front of the shogunal boathouses here from the 1630s until it was dismantled in 1682.  The boathouses themselves remained, barely visible here to the far left.

(A. Poster and H. Smith II, Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1986)

Related Objects
Same image as accession number 2018, but much lighter (2019 exposed to acidic paper matting).

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