The Suijin Temple Grove, Uchikawa, and the Village of Sekiya

Utagawa Hiroshige Japanese

Not on view

Hiroshige's use of cropping in this print has resulted in a startling abstract composition. The window describes a half circle while the edge of the shoji screen forms a vertical row of squares like a ladder. This pure geometry gives the picture compelling graphic force.

Essentially, the artist has created a half-circular picture within this picture and thereby contrasted outside space to inside space. The latter, however, is very minimal, for most of the inside of the room has been cropped out of the picture. Nonetheless, Hiroshige leaves just enough room along the left edge of the picture to suggest the fragrance of the camellia in the flower holder hanging by the window. Contrasted to the camellia, is the plum blossom outside the window.

This print illustrates a scene in Masaki, which was a district of Edo with teahouses where visitors would drop in on their way to the nearby Asakusa gay quarters. Visible outside the window beyond the Sumida River is the famous Suijin Shrine, where the guardian deity of travelers is enshrined. This point at the river is also well known for a legendary story about the Heian court noble Ariwara no Narihira. Having lost his position in Kyoto, Narihira reached this spot and composed a waka poem concerning his desperate longing for a certain lady left behind in Kyoto. Thus, the image suggests the elevation of the love of the contemporary cosmopolitan Edo man, who frequents teahouses and geisha houses, by reference to the poetic love of a nobleman much earlier in history.

The Suijin Temple Grove, Uchikawa, and the Village of Sekiya, Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, Tokyo (Edo) 1797–1858 Tokyo (Edo)), Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, Japan

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