The unique charm of bridges in traditional Japanese art

by | Dec 27, 2022 | Maritime Art, Culture and History

Bridges in Japanese art have a unique charm that stems from the traditional values and ideas held by the Japanese. Amongst them: the adoration of beauty; love for nature and its changing aspects; the transcience of life; social accord; and harmony with the universe. Looking at the following works of art, one feels a certain tranquility, the kind that comes from knowing one’s place in the larger scheme of things.

Click on the images for a larger view. These works are best viewed in fullscreen

The Tenma Bridge in Settsu Province (Sesshû Tenmabashi), from the series Remarkable Views of Bridges in Various Provinces (Shokoku meikyô kiran), c. 1834
Colour woodblock print
Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849)
Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum

The Monkey Bridge, early 19th century
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Katsushika Taito II (Japanese, active 1810–1853)
Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Courtesy of Harvard Art Museums

The Gion bridge at Hondo in Amakusa, 1924
Colour woodcut
Kawase Hasui (Japanese, 1883–1957)
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Ohashi Bridge, Sudden Shower at Atake, from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1857
Polychrome woodblock print
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858)
Courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery

Nihon Bridge as Seen from Edo Bridge (Edobashi yori Nihonbashi o miru zu), from the series Perspective Pictures (Uki-e), no date
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and colour on paper
Kitao Masayoshi (Kuwagata Keisai) (Japanese, 1764–1824)
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Kameido Bridge, no date
Woodblock printed in colours
Yoshida Hiroshi (Japanese, 1876–1950)
Courtesy of Abbot and Holder, London

In the snow on Yanagibashi, 1927
Colour woodcut
Ohara Koson (Japanese, 1877–1945)
Courtesy of Rijksmusum, Amsterdam

Women on a Bridge Tossing Fans into a River, early 17th century
Six-panel folding screen; ink, color, gold, and gold leaf on paper
Unidentified Japanese artist
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

~ Barista Uno

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