8/03/2008 — 26/04/2008

Utagawa Hiroshige

The Moon Reflected

Later woodblock prints from the British Museum
Curated by Julian Opie with the assistance of Timothy Clark



This exhibition, organised by Ikon Gallery, Birimingham and curated by renowned British artist Julian Opie, consistsed of woodblock prints by 19th century Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige. The Moon Reflected is the result of Opie’s longstanding interest in Hiroshige. Opie’s preference for Hiroshige’s later work is significant, as it tends to be broader in style and less narrative, thus accentuating more aesthetic concerns. Both artists focus on landscape and figures, refining visual information to arrive at stylised conclusions, flattened compositions that are abstractions of everyday life.

Born in Tokyo in 1797, Hiroshige studied printmaking and painting, becoming an illustrator of comic poetry and storybooks. By 1830, he was concentrating on making prints of famous Japanese landscapes. This exhibition features works from three series: 'Famous Views of the Sixty-Odd Provinces' (1856), 'One Hundred Famous Views of Edo', (1856-58), and 'Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji' (1858). Their formal quality tends to be accentuated by the artist’s choice of a vertical format, never before used to such an extent in Japanese landscape prints.

Hiroshige’s last series, 'One Hundred Famous Views of Edo' (1856-58), was originally intended to be one hundred images but there are more due to the popular demand. The imagery features fascinating details amidst a range of evocative landscapes. Rivers, hills, bridges and temples are depicted in these breathtaking compositions, each work revealing their different aspects depending on the weather, time of day and season.

Also included in this exhibition are a number of the Hiroshige’s sketchbooks and the famous Snow, Moon and Flowers triptychs. Beautiful and unpretentious, these works epitomise Hiroshige’s vision, extraordinary for their breadth and ambition.

A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition which includes an interview between Julian Opie and Timothy Clark (Japanese Section, the British Museum) and an essay by Henry Smith (Columbia University).


Installation images from Utagawa Hiroshige, The Moon Reflected can be seen here.

This Blackpool showing of the exhibition was funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.