Today I visited the Harn museum in Gainesville and they had what is possibly their best temporary exhibit during my time here at the University of Florida. It’s an exhibit of woodcuts from the Edo period in Japan showcasing the landscapes and stories associated with the 55 stations of the Tokaido Road. It includes works from three artists from the Utagawa school including the works below by Utagawa Hiroshige and Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
What I also found extremely interesting is the inclusion of the series by modern artist Sekino Jun’ichiro. It depicts life at the stations as it exists during post-WWII Japan. Above are two examples of his work that depict the stone bridge and concrete highways that replaced the wooden bridge in Tokyo as well as the colorful festival contrasted with the somber background.
After going home, I spent about an hour looking at life as depicted in the traditional Japanese style, emphasizing flatness, the simplification of color variations, and the clear outlining of figures, all which come together to bring serenity and balance. The exhibition helped me understand the Japanese art tradition better, why it inspired so many French & Dutch painters in the late 19th century, and how it’s developed into the animation that is so unique to the Land of the Rising Sun.