Hiroshige, Fishing Boats on a Lake, 1834
Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) is one of the best known Japanese printmakers, along with Hokusai (known for his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji). Both artists worked in the ukiyo-e woodblock style, and Hiroshige is considered its last great master. Ukiyo-e was popular during the Edo period and usually depicted scenes of middle class entertainment, as well as history and folklore. It was Hokusai and Hiroshige who established the landscape print as a major theme of Ukiyo-e. These artists had a great influence on French Impressionists, particularly Monet and Van Gogh, and we can especially see that influence in this image. I am struck by many things in this print. Certainly there is an amazing delicacy of line, which we might expect from Japanese prints, but the movement of the waves and the rippling of the sunset are especially remarkable. The simplicity and richness of the color add a lot to the piece. The variation in the water and the gradient in the sky give a realism to the scene. The shapes of the birds, boats, clouds, and mountains all balance each other perfectly. All of these elements result in a scene of quiet yet intense beauty.