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Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake
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asmith's picture

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Utagawa Hiroshige loved Japan so much he painted it hundreds of times over.

Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake was the 58th print in Hiroshige’s series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,” which was so popular that 118 prints were made and endlessly reprinted. They were sort of like the trading cards of the time. Sudden Shower was one of Hiroshige’s most admired prints because of the way he depicted rain; using gradation and thin diagonal lines it gave the impression of an intense downpour. It was probably hell for the guy who had to carve his woodblocks... I hope he got workers' comp.

The Japanese weren’t alone in their Hiroshige craze: once Japan re-opened for trade after over 200 years of seclusion, Japonism took hold of the likes of van Gogh, Monet, and countless other big-time western artists. Van Gogh especially fell in love with the Japanese aesthetic and dove into it balls deep. He enjoyed Hiroshige’s prints in particular, and showed love and appreciation for the artist’s work in the best way artists know how to: by blatantly copying it, of course!

Van Gogh painted the clunky but vibrantly colored Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige) in 1887, about 20 years after Hiroshige had died. Aside from the aforementioned clunkiness, the painting stays true to Hiroshige’s original composition. But no plagiarized painting would be complete without some cultural appropriation to boot. Because he wanted to maintain the proportions of the original painting, van Gogh had a lot of blank space around the final painting, which he chose to fill with random kanji characters he’d seen in other Japanese prints, which are complete nonsense.

The copyright infringement didn’t end there. Van Gogh also copied Hiroshige’s Plum Estate, Kameido, which featured more nonsensical Japanese characters along the frame. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but this is going a bit too far. 

Sources

Sources

  1. “Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige),” Van Gogh Museum, Accessed Aug 2018, https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0114V1962?v=1.
  2. “Flowering Plum Orchard (after Hiroshige),” Van Gogh Museum, Accessed Aug 2018, https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0114V1962?v=1.
  3. “Hiroshige’s One Hundred Views of Edo,” Brooklyn Museum, Accessed August 2018, https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/features/edo.
  4. Myers, Jennifer. “Why Did the World go Crazy Over this Woodblock Print by Hiroshige?” Into Japan / Wakaru Magazine, Oct 2017, Accessed Aug 2018, https://intojapanwaraku.com/en/20171013/21304.
  5. Nina Siegal, “Van Gogh Never Visited Japan, but He Saw It Everywhere,” The New York Times, March 2018, Accessed Aug 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/arts/design/vincent-van-gogh-japan.html.
  6. “Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake (Ohashi Atake no Yudachi), No. 58 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,” Brooklyn Museum, Accessed August 2018, https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/121666.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake

Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake (大はしあたけの夕立, Ōhashi atake no yūdachi) is a woodblock print in the ukiyo-e genre by the Japanese artist Hiroshige. It was published in 1857 as part of the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo and is one his best known prints.

One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

The picture is part of the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo which actually features 119 views of 'named places' or 'celebrated spots' in the area that is today Tokyo. The series was unique in being the first to feature this many separate landscape views. The series was produced between 1856 and 1859 with Hiroshige II finishing the series after the death of Hiroshige in 1858. This print was published in the ninth month of 1857. The series was commissioned shortly after the 1855 Edo earthquake and subsequent fires and featured many of the newly rebuilt or repaired buildings. The prints may have commemorated or helped draw Edo's citizens attention to the progress of the rebuilding.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake.