Dordt College News

Japanese art exhibit at Dordt Campus Gallery

August 8, 2004

A collection of 34 heirloom Japanese woodcut art prints will be on display at the Dordt College Campus Center Art Gallery Monday, Aug. 9 through Saturday, Sept. 25.

The exhibition by Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) is on loan to Dordt College thanks to the efforts of David Versluis, an art professor at Dordt College. The 170-year-old collection is part of the permanent collection of the Calvin College Art Department. It was presented by the Fugimaki family to Mr. and Mrs. Gerrit Roelofs in 1951, who later donated the vintage art to Calvin College.

The Dordt exhibition will feature 34 selected prints from The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, the Hoeido Edition, which was published by Takeuchi Magohachi in 1833-1834. Kameyama

Japanese woodblock prints are known as Ukiyo-e (pictures of a floating world). Although originally intended for the homes of the rich, royalty snubbed them and they quickly became the art of the commoners. Subject matter of the prints reflected the tastes and activities of the times – Kabuki theatre, geisha quarters, novels and other fads and fashions.

This art form underwent a revival in the late1700s, when landscape prints were introduced by Hokusai. This artist produced a set of prints featuring the Tokaido (the main highway in Japan). Although the highway passed through the most beautiful scenery along Japan’s Pacific Coast, Hokusai featured people rather than scenery.

Utagawa Hiroshige took a new approach, creating the first series of full-fledged landscapes to deal with the highway in The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road. His artwork’s popularity led Hiroshige to produce 40 more albums of the same subject, modeled after the Hoeido version. The best-known editions are the Gyosho version (published 1841-1842) and Reisho version (published ca.1850).

Viewers attending the exhibit will note that Tokaido is marked on a red label in each print, followed by the number of the print in the series. The name of the particular station is also cut on each block and the publisher’s seal or his name, Takeuchi Magohachi (Hoeido), is found on most of the prints, each of which is signed Hiroshige.

Many well-known Western artists of the later 19th and early 20th century, such as the Impressionists, Whistler, Van Gogh, and Cézanne were greatly influenced by the aesthetic qualities of Japanese woodblock prints, particularly those of Hiroshige.

The Dordt College Art Department thanks the Calvin College Art Department for their generosity and cooperation in sharing this exhibit, with special thanks to Mr. Joel Zwart, director of exhibitions, for his assistance in organizing this show.

The public is invited to view this free art exhibition from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day at the Dordt College Campus Center Art Gallery in Sioux Center.

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