Slowing Down with the Works of Hiroshige

Slow is not a word we come by very often in the modern world. With technology and economics fueling the pathway to modernity, it’s hard to even think that slow is a possibility nowadays. However, every once in a while we can be transported back to a time where spending longer on a project is what gave it it’s value. A time when handcrafted artistry was appreciated more than the mass consumer appeal.

During my latest artist date at the Scuderie del Quirinale, I was transported back to that slow paced beauty by the works of Hiroshige. Utagawa Hiroshige was a master of bringing both landscape and nature the forefront of his works. His aesthetic is unique for it’s ability to capture vividly intricate details. It is almost as if each piece is a photograph with it’s juxtaposition of planes.

Don’t be fooled by their colorful simplicity. Each layer of each print is derived from a hand-carved wooden block, which is copied from an illustration by the artist. To arrive at multi-colored, tonal expressions filled with the finest details in fabrics, textures and even graphical overlays, the artist must precisely hand print each color using separate blocks, and inks – all on the same single sheet that will become the final artwork.

What I loved most about Hiroshige’s works is the sense of harmony it brings to the viewer, not just in it’s finished production, but in the knowledge of all the hours of work that went into each one. Hiroshige presents viewers with slow art, art that is completely the artists’ from start to finish.

From the brushes and printing tools, to the custom stamp and form of the paper, each and every piece is slow. To understand the intricacies of the work and all that went into them is to truly breathe in Hiroshige’s work. Hiroshige’s form and art has been the influence of many other artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh, who have mimicked and copied the master’s work as well.

No matter where you look in Hiroshige’s work you are never without artistry or craftsmanship. With vibrantly colored flowers, bright insects, and animals, Hiroshige takes you back to a time of slow harmony and wonder. Perhaps a nice relaxation is what we all need every now and then.