Sofia Di Scipio
Water has been an essential means of life, transportation, and trade in Japan for centuries. The significance of fish as a source of sustenance commenced in 676 when Emperor Tenmu prohibited the eating and killing of mammals; thus, establishing fish as the primary form of protein for Japan. Yet, during the Edo Period (1603-1867), fish became a pertinent origin of wealth through the development of fishery businesses. The ideology of fish bringing prosperity to Japan can even be noted in the word “Katsuobushi,” or smoked fish. This is because the word “katsuo” is translated as ‘victory’ and is interpreted as fish bringing victory in the word ‘Katsuobushi’ (Johnston & Shriver, 2001).
Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) was a master of ukiyo-e woodblock printing during Edo Period in Japan. Hiroshige began painting around the age of twelve and his early work predominantly focused on vertical narrow landscapes. In the middle of the 19th century, Hiroshige concentrated his prints on landscape design as well as various series of prints depicting Japan, and a small series of fish prints. In this exhibition, three prints are derived from Hiroshige’s “A Shoal of Fishes” series, the fourth image is a single print, and the final print is from his “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo” series. Each of these five prints either explicitly depicts fish or a body of water while also conveying the subject as a source of wealth and prosperity for Japan.
For this exhibition, I used Artstor online database to find woodblock prints. The three prints in Hiroshige’s “A Shoal of Fishes” Collection were all in the Caroline Black Collection and were able to be viewed and analyzed in person. Unfortunately, the final two images “Harbor Scene-Boats” and “Inside Akiba Shrine, Ukeji” were not available to view in person and could only be visualized digitally. The only downside to being confined to the digital version of the print is not having the ability to see finer details of the print. For instance, when viewed in person details including cross-hatching, fine brush strokes, and accurate colors were more apparent. But fortunately, the images on Artstor were high definition which did alleviate the disadvantage of not viewing them in person. Future works for this exhibition can include Hiroshige’s landscape prints during his travels around Japan that include any body of water or aquatic life.
- Hiroshige, Ando, Japanese, 1797-1858. 1840. A Shoal of Fishes series of 20, #5 Sayori & Awabi/Tokobushi (Japanese halfbeak & abalone). color woodcut. Place: Wetmore Print Collection, Art History Dept, Cummings Arts Center, Connecticut College, New London, Donated by Prof. Caroline Black, Botany Dept, Connecticut College. https://library.artstor.org/asset/CONNASIAN_106310616922.
- Hiroshige, Ando, Japanese, 1797-1858. 1840. A Shoal of Fishes series of 20, #6 Tobiuo & Ishimochi (flying fish & white croaker). color woodcut. Place: Wetmore Print Collection, Art History Dept, Cummings Arts Center, Connecticut College, New London, Donated by Prof. Caroline Black, Botany Dept, Connecticut College. https://library.artstor.org/asset/CONNASIAN_106310616924.
- Hiroshige, Ando, Japanese, 1797-1858. 1840. A Shoal of Fishes series of 20, #18 Hobo/Kangashira & Karei (gurnard, sea robbin & righteye flounder). color woodcut. Place: Wetmore Print Collection, Art History Dept, Cummings Arts Center, Connecticut College, New London, Donated by Prof. Caroline Black, Botany Dept, Connecticut College. https://library.artstor.org/asset/CONNASIAN_106310617041.
- Hiroshige, Ando (Japanese, 1797 – 1858). Harbor Scene – Boats, overall. 1797-1858. Artstor, library.artstor.org/asset/SS36412_36412_31242878
- Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797 – 1858). Inside Akiba Shrine, Ukeji, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei); No. 91, autumn section. 1857. Artstor, library.artstor.org/asset/24958891
- Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Tokugawa period.” Encyclopedia Britannica, July 15, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/event/Tokugawa-period.
- Johnston, Richard S. and Ann L. Shriver. 2001. History of Fish Marketing and Trade with Particular Reference to Japan: International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade. http://hdl.handle.net/1957/35421.
- Thomsen, Hans Bjarne. 2002. “The Other Hiroshige: Connoisseur of the Good Life.” Impressions (24): 48-71. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42597929.
- Wakana, Hiroshi. 2012. “History of ‘Uotsukirin’ (Fish-Breeding Forests) in Japan.” In The Dilemma of Boundaries, 145-160. Tokyo: Springer Japan.