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Focus On: Hiroshige's Kinryuzan Temple at Asakusa


Hiroshige, Kinryuzan Temple at Asakusa, 1856

Quiet beneath a blanket of snow, the Kinryuzan Temple rests at the end of the lane. The townspeople of Asakusa brave the cold, bundled up and huddled beneath umbrellas, as they approach the temple. The pines offer no hint of their rich green, instead appearing completely white on this winter evening. Yet, the viewer stays sheltered from the snow. Flurries continue to fall from a grey sky, collecting in eaves and umbrella ridges, but the viewer watches the scene from within another temple building. As the red lantern glows against the coming evening, the walk down snow-covered lane seems long. Now showing at the Ronin Gallery, Kinryuzan Temple at Asakusa, is just one of Hiroshige’s triumphs in the show “Masterworks of Hiroshige’s Landscapes.

Through his rich color and novel compositions, Hiroshige’s popularity spans from his contemporaries to modern audiences. His aesthetic served as an important inspiration for French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. From Van Gogh to Monet to Toulouse-Lautrec, each artist found inspiration in Hiroshige’s daring compositions. Looking to Kinryuzan Temple, one can identify these points of influence. As the road, the treetops, the distant skyline and the low eaves construct strong, intersecting diagonals, Hiroshige creates movement and focus in the print. While the diagonals craft one point of focus, the extreme close up of the temple wall along the left edge and the red lantern overhead develops a sense of distance. Paired with rich colors, these compositional techniques create a unique approach to landscape prints.

With his novel approach to landscapes, Hiroshige possesses a special ability to capture not only the likeness of a place, but also its emotion and spirit. From the series 100 Famous Views of Edo, Kinryuzan Temple at Asakusa presents the temple not on its own, but framed within the everyday lives of its visitors. Though the structure itself takes up very little of the composition, Hiroshige creates an intimate experience of the place. As visitors brave the snow and a lantern appears close enough to touch, the viewer feels that he or she could step right into the scene.

This print can also be found at:

Chazen:
http://embarkkiosk.chazen.wisc.edu/OBJ5841

British Museum:
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=783344&partId=1

The Met: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/53680