Down Town Culture

From Bristol City Council Culture Team.  Great waves and winding roads: Iconic Japanese prints showcased in a series of exhibitions in Bristol – Masters of Japanese prints: Hokusai and Hiroshige landscapes – 22 September 2018 – 6 January 2019 at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

A series of three exhibitions will showcase Bristol’s collection of Japanese woodblock prints over the next year.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery has a collection of some 500 ‘floating world pictures’ (ukiyo-e) which celebrate the pleasures of life in Japan. The collection ranks in the top five regionally in the UK and it is particularly strong in 18th-century works.

The first exhibition, Masters of Japanese prints: Hokusai and Hiroshige landscapes will explore the radical developments in landscape prints made by two of Japan’s best-loved artists.

From the 1830s to the 1850s, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) developed a dynamic new genre of landscape prints that became hugely popular with their customers in Japan and later with western artists and collectors.

The exhibition will look at how Hokusai exploited a growing interest in Japanese landscape through his ground-breaking series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and how he experimented with newly available Prussian Blue dye to develop a striking new colour palette. The selection will include his iconic design The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

Encouraged by Hokusai’s success, Hiroshige developed his own landscape series including The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road which portrayed views along the route between the cities of Kyoto and Edo (today’s Tokyo). Engaging scenes from this and other series will be included in the display.

The exhibition will highlight the ways in which both artists use innovative perspectives, changes in light and weather as well as human figures to involve viewers in the scenes. The exhibitions are sponsored by InsideJapan Tours.

Kate Newnham, senior curator of Visual Art, said:

People around the world have enjoyed Japanese landscape prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige since they were first designed nearly 180 years ago. Western artists such as Monet and Van Gogh were deeply influenced by their radical designs. Although Japanese prints are widely reproduced today, from greetings cards to graffiti murals, there is nothing like seeing the originals close-up to appreciate their striking compositions and the vibrancy of their colours. I would like to thank our exhibition sponsor, InsideJapan Tours, the Friends of Bristol Art Gallery and individual donors for their enthusiastic and generous support for this project.”

Included in the display will be a set of prints showing the process of colour printing one of Hiroshige’s prints Shono – Sudden Rain from The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido, newly commissioned from a traditional woodblock print workshop in Tokyo with funding from the Friends of Bristol Art Gallery.

The exhibitions have been made possible thanks to a successful fundraising campaign that raised almost £21,000 towards the conservation and display of the works. Generous contributions from individual donors and the Friends of Bristol Art Gallery have enabled the prints to be remounted and stored to prevent the light sensitive inks from fading.

James Mundy, PR and Marketing Manager at InsideJapan Tours, said:

As a Bristol-based independent Japan travel specialist, we are delighted to be supporting our local museum’s latest exhibition. It has long been our ambition to share our passion for this incredible country; its landscapes, its people and its culture – both old and new. The Japanese take an immense pride in their unique traditional arts; many of which are still readily practised across the country. We hope that the wonderful works of the ukiyo-e masters, Hokusai and Hiroshige will inspire more people to travel to Japan and experience the ‘floating world’ for themselves.”

More information can be found at