Sudden Rain on Ohashi Bridge in Utagawa Hiroshige's Atake

Sudden Rain on Ohashi Bridge in Utagawa Hiroshige's Atake
Sudden Rain on Ohashi Bridge in Utagawa Hiroshige's Atake

Utagawa Hiroshige, whose real name was Ando Tokutaro, is considered the last great master of Japanese print engravers. A field in which he made various series of landscapes throughout his life, both natural and urban. And among all his series possibly the most singular is that of One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, which he made in the last years of his life, and to which this woodcut from 1857 belongs, whose title lo can be more descriptive, Sudden rain over Ohashi Bridge in Atake. A picture of which several copies of the time have come down to us and have been distributed throughout the world, from the Fuji Art Museum in Tokyo to the Brooklyn Museum Art from New York.


Sudden Rain on Ohashi Bridge in Atake by Utagawa Hiroshige

The truth is that this dispersion is not at all strange, since Japanese prints arrived in the West at the end of the 19th century and fascinated the artists of the time. In fact, he made a copy of this same image Van Gogh or the influence on some of the night-time works that painter James Abbot McNeill Whistler is very clear.

Somehow, despite the long distance that separates Japan from European art movements, there are certain links, and many consider this print to have a lot of impressionism, alcapture that fleeting moment when the rain falls on that bridge in a neighborhood of Tokyo (then called Edo). You see people running, or a fisherman swimming fast for shelter. It's like a snapshot.

And that fleeting aspect is helped by the chosen point of view, from above, with that unique panoramic view of the river, the bridge and the neighborhood.

Actually this print and the entire series, which is made up of 119 prints, came from a commission from a Tokyo publisher. Which askedHiroshigeto portray the city after the changes he had undergone in recent years. First because of the confrontation he had suffered in 1853 against United States Navy ships, and then because of a strong earthquake in 1855 that was devastating, with thousands of buildings demolished and also thousands of dead in the tragedy.

That was the objective of this work, to portray a changed city, in which traditions also struggled with modernity. Perhaps that is why he dedicated himself to searching for picturesque, unusual images, just as he had no qualms about experimenting both with framing and with his color compositions. A color in which he always highlights his powerful blue, so personal that it has even been called “Hiroshige blue.”

Without a doubt it is a most interesting work, and very advanced for its time. And possibly it would have reached more revolutionary heights, but the author died while he was being executed in 1858, dying of a devastating cholera epidemic.

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