Gathering of Otsu-e Subjects

Gathering of Otsu-e Subjects

late 1800s

Shibata Zeshin

(Japanese, 1807-1891)

Eight-panel folding screen, ink and color on hemp

Image: 101 x 396 cm (39 3/4 x 155 7/8 in.); Overall: 170 x 336 cm (66 15/16 x 132 5/16 in.); Closed: 170 x 11.7 x 61.6 cm (66 15/16 x 4 5/8 x 24 1/4 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1982.9

Description

This lively scene captures a gathering of stock figures from Otsu-e, or "Otsu paintings." Otsu-e were folk paintings made as souvenirs for travelers passing through the station of Otsu along the Tokaido, the route stretching from Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto. Parodies of standard ukiyo-e compositions featuring Otsu-e subjects were popular in woodblock prints of the 19th century. Shibata Zeshin, an artist whose career spanned the transition from the Edo period (1615–1868) to the Meiji period (1868–1912), was fond of depicting urban culture and the pastimes of commoners, aware that they were slipping away in the face of Japan’s modernization. This composition would have appealed to the witty sensibilities of city denizens.

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