Autumn moon at Seto

Utagawa Hiroshige
1797 - 1858
Autumn moon at Seto
c. 1835-39
Woodblock print, nishiki-e
Horizontal ōban, 246 x 365 mm

Publisher: Koshimuraya Heisuke (Koshihei)
Censorship: kiwame

Series: Eight Views of Kanazawa - Kanazawa hakkei


Fine impression with elegant bokashi in the sky, in the sea and on the roofs of the houses. Very good colour. Good margins, the left one remargined outside the framing line.

The series of the Eight Views of Kanazawa is counted among Hiroshige's masterpieces, being one of three sets of eight views, the others being Omi Hakkei, Eight Views of Omi, and Edo Kinko Hakkei, Eight Views of the Environs of Edo.
All three sets are uncommon, Kanazawa Hakkei particularly so.

Another fine impression of this print, but without margins, is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (accession number 21.5323).

The Japanese, following Chinese custom and tradition, have an affection for arranging things in definite categories of fixed numbers. There are many instances of this practice in the work of Hiroshige. A conspicuous example of the habit is found in the several series of landscapes, each comprising eight views, and always associated in theme with eight ancient Chinese poems dealing respectively with Evening Snow, the Full Moon in Autumn Twilight, Evening Rain, Temple Bells Ringing at Close of Day, Boats Returning to Harbour, Geese Flying Home, Sunset, and Clearing Skies at Evening after Storm. Hiroshige designed numerous sets of prints embodying the well-known and popular ideas, but placed them in ever-varying setting of different scenes. Indeed his three great series of Hakkei - those dealing with the scenery of Lake Biwa, (Omi Hakkei), the neighbourhood of Edo (Yedo Kinko Hakkei) and Kanazawa (Kanazawa Hakkei) - must be placed in the first selection of his work. These three series are executed with rare delicacy of design and restrained, but exquisite colour.

Born in Edo in 1797, Hiroshige whilst still a teenager, was allowed to work in the studio of Utagawa Toyohiro, an artist with a preference for classical and landscape subjects. He studied also Nanga painting under the artist Ooka Umpo. In the 1812 he adopted the name Hiroshige. The first prints to be published under this name were images of beautiful women, a few surimono and landscapes in small format. In 1831 Hiroshige designed a successful series of Sights of Edo. In 1832 he accompanied the annual procession from Edo to the emperor in Kyoto along the Tokaido. During the journey, he sketched the scenes which he later put into the fifty-five prints which made up the celebrated series of views of the fifty-three post stations on the route. The series was revolutionary, the scenes had a naturalness and sense of immediacy that provoked instant popular appeal. This established Hiroshige as the painter of Tokaido scenes and, subsequently, he produced some thirty series on the same theme. Many highly successful landscape series would follow such as the Sixty-nine Stages on the Kiso Highway, the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, the Thirty six Views of Mount Fuji. In his declining years, in addition to landscapes, he created an unique style in depicting birds and flowers.


Other works of the master