Paris, France — It was an inland route, filled with mountain peaks and dramatic landscapes. A spectacular thoroughfare, travelled by the bold and adventurous. An exhibition in Paris at the Musée Cernuschi in Paris tells the tale of the Road of Kisokaidō, one of the five roads of a network created during the Tokugawa era which lasted from 1603 to 1863. It linked Edo, today’s Tokyo, with Kyoto, the seat of the emperor. The exhibition brings together an ensemble of 150 Japanese prints including some that are being revealed to the public for the first time. If you can’t come to Paris right now, The Gourmet Gazette brings to you the show and a glimpse at travel in Japan in a bygone age.
The exhibition follows a path punctuated by the various landscapes, sites, scenes, inns and stopovers on the route, described as having 69 segments or stations, through the prints by the 19th century Japanese artists Eisen, Hiroshige, and Kuniyoshi. The exhibition is peppered with refined travel objects of the times like statuettes, calligraphy sets, the essentials for picnicking, katanas (a type of Japanese sword), elaborate essentials for smoking, battle saddles. In short works of art, a highly different panoply of travel accessories than those of the present day. The post stations provided stables, food and lodgings for travelers.
The show presents two versions of the journey. The first conceived with prints by Eisen and Hiroshige emanating from the Georges Leskowicz Collection, regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world because of the quality of the prints. The second series by Kuniyoshi, which belonged to Henri Cernuschi, the museum’s founder, is being shown to the public for the first time.
Keisai Eisen and Utagawa Hiroshige were particularly renowned for their prints engraved on wood the ukiyo-e, which literally means floating images of the world. Eisen would begin the 69 stations of the Route of Kisokaidō which would be terminated by his contemporary Hiroshige. Improbable landscapes of arched bridges navigating mountain roads, travelers on paths passing mountain peaks and simple homes or elaborate pagodas, a depiction of a dance festival. A fantastical journey filled with sheer drop-offs and beauty.
The second part of the show is devoted to the prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi, one of the masters of the ukiyo-e medium. His colorful, bold at times whimsical works emanate from the collection that Henri Cernuschi donated to the city of Paris in the 19th century and it has been recently restored. It is being shown to the public for the first time.His works often depicts bold characters who seemingly have no relationship with the landscapes into which they are set. The artist’s imagination is astonishing and he evokes the legends, history and folklore of Japan during the Edo era (1603-1868). There is, among others, a dynamic fish monger, a well-dressed lady resting and surrounded by foxes, a man pushing a dragon over a cliff with what seems to be a walking stick.
The Musée Cernuschi, which is devoted to Asian art and is part of the network of the museums of the city of Paris, is nestled into a beautiful 19th century mansion that was the home of Henri Cernuschi.
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