Utagawa Yoshimori, Calligraphy and Pictures along the Fifty-three Stations

Utagawa Yoshimori, 1830-84)

Calligraphy and Pictures along the Fifty-three Stations: Arai in Totomi Province, Panoramic View of the Open Sea
(Shoga gojusan tsugi: Totomi, Arai, Nada no chobo)

signed Koseiko Yoshimori sha (or Koseiko Kosai sha), the publisher seal 'I' (Sawamuraya Seikichi of Seieido) in the top margin along with the date seal Mizunoe-Saru, ku (cylical year 'elder brother wood,' year of the monkey [1872], 9th month)

oban tate-e 14 5/8 by 9 7/8 in., 37.2 by 25 cm

A bold image of curling waves breaking across the bow of a three-masted clipper ship flying an American flag (the 'stars and stripes' rendered in abbreviated form due to necessary artistic license), with the red and white stripes of another flag cropped off along the left margin. While the image shows no sign of land, the title identifies the location as Arai, which was a port city as well as the 31st station on the Tokaido road. The text in the upper cartouche by the historian Nakane Yukie (1807-1877) pertains to the Pacific Ocean located toward the East; indeed we see along the horizon line the glow of yellow indicating the break of day.

This collaborative series issued in 1872 by the publisher Sawamuraya Seikichi is one of the more complex types of Tokaido-themed print series produced in the format of fukiyose- with a compilation of motifs. Beyond a straightforward landscape image perhaps paired with a poem or a figure, fukiyose (lit. 'blowing together') can combine an array of allusions and references to reward the viewer in discovering the connections. The complete series of fifty-five designs were all issued in just one year, with contributions from five primary designers and at least ten additional artists who provided secondary images and inscriptions. The construct was a presentation of multiple title cartouches and a large panel presenting the primary image representing the station paired with a secondary panel with calligraphy and sometimes a smaller image. The series title is within the red cartouche to the right, and below that in the lower right corner a green pillar-shaped cartouche identifies the station name and prefecture with an explanation of the main image. The electrical pylon breaking the border of the composition along the right margin seems to assert that the traditional subject of the Tokaido and ukiyo-e itself can stay relevant and adapt to the fast-paced changing times.

Reference:
Andreas Marks, Kunisada's Tokaido: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2013, pp. 51-52, and appendix 1, p. 307, no. T81

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