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Fantastic Landscapes: Hokusai and Hiroshige

In the 19th century, Japanese printmaking saw two concurrent trends: an intensification of color and a rise in the popularity of landscape images.

Capitalizing on these two trends were the most successful print designers of their time, Katsushika Hokusai (1760­–1849) and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858). Their daring color schemes formed fantastic landscapes that fueled worldwide demand for Japanese prints.

Beginning with the widespread use of the chemical pigment Berlin blue in the 1830s, landscapes could be as vibrant as one’s imagination. Brilliant blue waterfalls, jade hills, chartreuse cliffs, and pink skies made up a new palette for the natural world as depicted in print. The popularity of series such as Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and Hiroshige’s One Hundred Views of Edo did more to spread these images at home, in Europe, and in America than ever before.

This exhibition of works drawn from the Art Institute’s collection showcases a spectacular moment of color in Japanese landscapes—one that would have a lasting impact on artists oceans away.

Relevant research areas: East Asia, 19th Century, Relief printing

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