Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), Edo Period, 1831, Vent frais par matin clair (Fine Wind, Clear Morning), from the "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji" series, original print, in blue, of the view called "Red Fuji", monochrome block print in blue (aizuri-e), 25.6 x 37.5 cm.
© RMN-Grand Palais (MNAAG, Paris)/Thierry Ollivier
For followers of Shintoism, Mount Fuji is a treasure enclosing the elixir of immortality. For others, it symbolizes the transience of all things. For everyone, it represents Japan. Some 70 outstanding prints that have been taken out of storage and chronologically arranged in this pedagogically designed exhibition feature the mountain in all its subtlety. The winter scenes of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) are steeped in spirituality, as attested by the reference to monk Nichiren (1222-1282). The works dialogue with each other and depict the Japan of the little people, the lesser nobility and the ronin, the samurai with neither lord nor master, depicted by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). Photographer Felice Beato (1832-1909) immortalized some of these figures from the medieval period in hieratic poses in his studio. The silver prints by his Japanese contemporary, Suzuki Shin'ichi II (1855-1912), are among the first-ever made on the legendary road to Tokaido. Lastly, a print by Kawase Hasui (1863-1957) is all the rarer because nearly all his works were lost in the 1923 Tokyo earthquake. This one is based on the naturalist world of novelist Kafu Nagai (1879-1959), often deemed the Japanese Zola. Acquired by the museum very recently, it alone is worth the trip.