Nishimura Shigenaga, unsigned
Evening Sun over Seta

hosoban, 34.3 x 16.0 cm; sumizuri-e, hand-coloured with metallic pigments

Sheet 3 from “Eight Views of Ōmi”. Recent research attributes four different Ōmi hakkei series to Shigenaga. The early landscapes in ukiyo-e are oriented on paintings in the yamato-e style practiced by the Tosa school and provide little inkling of the spatial and atmospheric effects later created in landscapes by Hokusai and Hiroshige. They are more reminiscent of illustrated travel guides, which emerged at that time.

Geyger, inv.no.16369 (Mönche S.385)

The latest studies suggest that four series of Ômi-hakkei by Shigenaga were published. The three leaves shown here are closely based on an earlier set, which was produced by the publisher Masu-ya in about 1725. But in contrast to these, they are neither signed nor bear a publisher’s mark. The wood blocks were recarved. The model for these eight views of Lake Biwa in the Ômi Province are Chinese illustrations for the eight poems about the natural beauties of the rivers Xiao and Xiang in Hunan Province on Lake Dongting, which are known from the Song Period (960-1279). The early landscape illustrations of Ukiyo-e closely followed the painting traditions of the Tosa style of the traditional Yamato, and hardly allow one to anticipate the later landscapes, with their spatial and atmospheric pictorial effects, which we have come to know from Hokusai and Hiroshige. Rather, they point to the illustrated travel guides produced by hand by unknown skilled illustrators to serve a new travel fever, which arose in the first half of the 17th c. as a result of massive social change, in a broad section of the population.
Although the leaves published here are dated in the literature on Ukiyo-e to later than the woodblock prints of Ômi hakkei by Masanobu, the set discussed here appears to us to have retained more “archaic” features: the additive arrangement of landscape elements, figures and buildings, and the exaggeration of human physical proportions relative to their surroundings.

Leaf 1: Yabase-no-Kihan (Sailing Boats Returning to Yabase)

The boats are returning home across the wide waters. Some have already anchored at the shore and in the bay, and have reefed their sails. The boatmen unload their ships. A warrior goes determinedly on his way, a monk waves good-bye.
Maho hikite
With filled sails

Yabase ni kaeru fune wa ima
the boats return home to Yabase

Uchide no hama no
in the gentle breeze

saki no oikaze
back to the shores of Uchide.

Leaf 2: Awazu-no-Seiran (Freshening Wind over Awazu) (p. 122/123)

Awazu is a tiny place very near to Otsu, situated at the southern end of Lake Biwa. From there, the view of the lake under clear skies and with a fresh breeze was considered from the earliest times to be one of the most moving experiences of nature. About 1500 the feudal Lord Konoe is supposed to have designated this place, following Chinese tradition, as one of the eight most beautiful views of Lake Biwa.
The fortified castle of Zeze, near the city of Ôtsu, -- founded around 1600—towers over the shore of the lake. Boats, waves, ducks, mountains, and trees are distributed like patterns on the page. Three busy travelers and a horse loaded with bundles of brushwood acquire increased significance through their exaggerated proportions; they pay hardly any attention to the famous landscape.

Kumo harafu
Clouds are dispersed by the same wind

arashi ni tsurete
that sends one hundred boats,

hyaku fune mo
one thousand boats,

chifune mo home-nami mo
through the breaking waves

Awazu ni so yoru.
that surround Awazu.

Leaf 3: Seta-no-Sekishô (Evening Sun Over Seta) (p. 124/125)

A priest walks lost in thought on the bridge over the Ujigawa, which was famous for its beauty. A fisherman draws in his net. Two travelers with walking-sticks are about to cross the bridge. In spite of the overall activity, the persons illustrated seem entirely preoccupied with themselves. An idyllic tranquility emanates from this picture. Threes and huts on the little island between the two bridges make up the central focus of the picture.