Japanese prints of the XVIII –XIX century from the collection of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts







Ukiyo-e are popular pictures of the everyday life of the urban class in the Edo period. Originally the word ukiyo was used to designate one of the Buddhist categories and could be translated as "world of misery" or "world of sorrow". At the end of the 17th century ukiyo came to mean the modern world, the world of earthly joys and pleasure. The creation of Japanese ukiyo-e prints reached its heyday at the end of the 18th century.

The landscape genre appeared in the fine art of Japan under the influence of Chinese art. The term sansui-ga, or "pictures of mountains and waters" was also borrowed from China, since the main constituent elements of Far-Eastern painting were mountains and waterways as symbols of the dualistic view of the world. The landscape genre in Japanese ukiyo-e prints only became a distinct art form at the end of the 18th century. Prior to that, landscape motifs were to be found in ukiyo-e only as backgrounds in book illustrations or in single-sheet prints. At the beginning of the 19th century, after the introduction of censorship restrictions applicable to depictions of courtesans and actors, landscapes came to constitute the leading genre in ukiyo-e.

Landscape in Japanese prints is designated by the term fûkei-ga or "landscape pictures". Unlike idealized landscapes with views of majestic mountains, rivers and seas, the main motifs in ukiyo-e are familiar views of the famous Mount Fuji dear to every Japanese heart, views of the country's growing megapolis – Edo – or landscapes along the Tokaido Highway linking the new and old capitals, Edo and Kyōto.

The heyday of the landscape genre in classical Japanese woodblock prints is linked with the names of two great artists, Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, who created whole series of landscape prints, such as "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji", "Fifty-three Stations on the Tokaido Highway or "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo". Many artists, who worked in the landscape genre, were at that time actively borrowing techniques from European art, such as the structuring of space based on perspective and light-and-shade modelling.