Figures swimming

Figures swimming
Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige 狂歌四季人物, (1797 – 1859)

Title: Kyoka Shiki Jinbutsu (Picture album of people in the four seasons) 

Editor: Rōjin Tenmei

Date: 1855

Medium: Woodblock printed, ink and color on paper

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books, Hiroshige 3


Hiroshige was born in Edo and his childhood name was Andō Tokutarō. Hiroshige grew up in a minor samurai family and was bestowed with the artist name Hiroshige after only a year apprenticing with the celebrated Utagawa Toyohiro. He is famous for his noteworthy series of woodblock prints,The 53 Stations of the Tokaido, as well as many other works.

As the title indicates, this project included illustrations of people in the four seasons. Looking at Tress collection copy, it seems like it may only have the first and third parts, showing scenes of the New Year and summer. Comparison with the copy held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows that the Met’s copy includes scenes of spring and autumn. The publisher’s name is not recorded in the Tress volumes.

The poet Rojin selected works from poets for inclusion throughout. These are ordered so that more important poets have their poems included on the right side of the book, while those minor poets were included on the left side. 

The illustrations present people both in their working roles as well as enjoying everyday activities. These include scenes of sake wine sellers’ delivering wine, children playing with kites, horses taking travelers across a waterway, and ladies catching fireflies. 


Other Copies

Besides this copy, other copies of this work are owned by UC Berkley, Willams College, and the Metropolitan Museum 

Selected Reading

Andō, Hiroshige, and Gian Carlo Calza. Hiroshige: The Master of Nature. Skira, 2009.

Posted by Kemuel Benyehudah, February 26, 2020