UVaM - University of Virginia Art Museum


Katsukawa Shunsen
Japanese, 1762- c. 1830
Evening Glow at Ryogoku Bridge from the series Eight Views of Edo, c. 1804-18
Color woodblock print, triptych,
14 1/4 x 29 5/8 inches
Museum Collection,
684.226 a-c

Left detail

Center detail

Right detail

Katsukawa Shunsen depicted the Ryogoku Bridge in Edo in this triptych from his Eight Views of Edo. The theme of the series developed from a combination of the Chinese theme, Eight Views of Hsiao and Hsiang, and the Japanese tradition of depicting famous, old places (meisho).

Kitagawa Utamaro also portrayed Ryogoku Bridge in Walking Along the Riverbank at Night, in the Carnegie Museum of Art, and in Women and Children Above and Below the Ryogoku Bridge, in the Worcester Art Museum. Utamaro drew a summer outing of beautiful courtesans set on the famous bridge. By contrast, Shunsen focused on various types of ordinary people – lively in action with all their possessions drawn in detail. We see a bare-breasted woman putting a towel on her shoulder, a peddler who sells snacks grasping a dish, a running child beating a drum, a man carrying a bundle, a beautifully dressed courtesan holding a handkerchief, a grinning monk with a pair of wooden clogs, and a man with a folding fan. Full of fascinating details, Shunsen's print is a fine example of reportage. There is another copy of this print in the John Chandler Bancroft Collection, which differs slightly in the color of the sky and in details of the kimono pattern of the bare-breasted woman. We see fireworks in the night sky celebrating the opening of the entertainment district, where all classes of Japanese mingled with an "equality" very rare in Tokugawa Japan. The bridge connects the entertainment district with the rest of Edo.