Saturday Art: Aquatic Scenes at Freer Gallery


Hiroshige A Shoal of Fishes Fugu Yellowtail

It was good fortune to visit the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian while it has on display many paintings of the aquatic life that is often portrayed in Asian art. Bountiful Waters presents wonderful views of the life we see when we gaze into the streams and lakes around us, from a point of view that we aren’t familiar with.

The waters that surround the islands of Japan and flow from its mountain ranges to form rivers and lakes host plants and animals that have sustained human life since prehistoric times. This exhibition features a selection of prints, paintings, illustrated books, and ceramics that depict Japanese appreciation for the beauty and variety of fish and other species. A highlight is the public debut of the “large fish” series—twenty woodblock prints by Hiroshige (1797–1858) gifted to the Freer by John Fuegi and Jo Francis.

These pictures are compelling, and keep the life that exists underwater very much part of Japanese art.


Utagawa Hiroshige – Cuckoo flying under a full moon


Suido Bridge and Surugadai, from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Pictures via the Google Art Project

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