Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)
'White Heron and Irises'
Nishiki-e (brocade print), kachô-ga (bird and flower print)
Signature: Hiroshige hitsu
Museum no. E.2382-1912
A heron is depicted mid-flight behind a luxurious growth of irises, as if about to dive down to a river to catch its prey. The use of karazuri (blind-printing or gauffrage), a type of embossing, on the body of the heron not only creates a feeling of softness by lending extra depth to the print, but also serves to emphasise the whiteness of the bird.
Karazuri is a technique in which a pattern or texture (in this print, a feather pattern) is cut into a woodblock. The print is then placed face down onto the woodblock and the back of the paper is pressed and rubbed using a tool known as a baren.
One of Hiroshige's specialities was the kachô-ga (bird and flower print) genre. He conveys the intricate harmonies of nature in lush colours and with supreme skill in design and composition. The mood of his images is complemented by contemporary verses, either in Japanese or, as here, Chinese, relating to the theme of the print.
This print can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box TOPIC JP1.