The woodblock prints hung in two rows around one gallery, vibrant color coming forth from 1832. And for a moment or two, it’s like time travel, witnessing Utagawa Hiroshige’s (Japanese, 1797-1858) personal experience visiting 53 towns and villages along the Tokaido Road. There is rain, sunshine and travelers making pilgrimages from Edo (now Tokyo) to the ancient imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto.
With an hour left before the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland closed, my mother, my partner Ken, and I took in this printmaking show Saturday, May 14.
We had just spent the afternoon celebrating a belated Mother’s Day at Dollies Tea Room in Clear Spring, Maryland – the first time in several years we could engage in this favorite pastime. Then to make the day even better, we opted for a visit to the museum.
A quick note about this art museum – it’s one of my favorites as they are always incredibly helpful. They have a wheelchair for guest to use, and this allows my mother to see their exhibitions. She has trouble walking for extended periods, and the wheelchair is the perfect remedy, providing her with a cultural diversion every now and again.
We a spent most of time enjoying the “Along The Eastern Road: Hiroshige’s 53 Stations of the Tokaido” exhibit. Though I appreciate the medium (hooray – they have an actual woodblock printing plate of Hiroshige’s on display as well – and they describe the printing process), what I was most fond of was the idea of artistically expressing a specific historic trail. I’ve done my own impressions of historical events/trails (the John Wilkes Booth Escape Trail and remnants of a WWII Amphibious Training Base), so this show really appealed. There is something about capturing atmosphere and the combination of time and space that brings together a visul path narrative. Each print relates to a certain station or place along the Eastern Road.
The other really fascinating thing about this show was an exhibit panel deciphering all the various Japanese text and icons on each print, depicting things like the artist signature, title of the print, the publisher, and the name of the series.
This show is open for viewing until June 25, 2016. The museum is free, but donations are encouraged. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.