Exhibitions: Utagawa: Masters of the Japanese Print, 1770–1900

Utagawa Hiroshige and Utagawa Kunisada: Night Garden

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) and Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III, 1786–1865). Night Garden, 1853. From the series Elegant Prince Genji. Color woodcut. Chazen Museum of Art, John H. Van Vleck Endowment Fund purchase, 2003.14a–c

The great Utagawa school artists of the mid-nineteenth century developed areas of specialization that not only allowed them to avoid competing with one another but also lent themselves well to collaborative projects. This triptych with landscape by Hiroshige and figures by Kunisada is from a series illustrating the immensely popular serial novel Imposter Murasaki, Rustic Genji, by Ryūtei Tanehiko (1783–1842), which parodied the classic eleventh-century novel The Tale of Genji. The later story unfolds in the pleasure district of fifteenth-century Edo instead of in the imperial court of Kyoto. In this rare evening scene, the printer has created the blurred edges of the beam of lantern light by carefully wiping the blue ink from the carved block.