I am a big fan of Japanese Ukiyo-E and have write reviews of expos on the subject as far back as 2009 and 2008. This winter, the private Pinacoteque museum on the Place de la Madeleine is featuring two complimentary exhibits: Van Gogh: Dreams of Japan and Hiroshige: The Art of Travel. I haven’t had the time to visit the former yet, but found the later to be utterly fascinating despite the crowds. A friend of mine asked me exactly what I appreciated in these seemingly redundant landscapes from another time and another place. I actually quoted the excellent exposition catalog in saying that there is a real quiet feeling and peace in these images that invades my soul when I drink them in. There are probably close to 100 prints on display as well as some excellent artefacts (models of boats from the period, some portable tea comportments, and a shoulder-carried carriage). Hiroshige is particularly famous for having painted Tokyo but also the two roads between Tokyo and Kyoto (inland and seaside) but without ever having actually walked either of them. What I appreciated was that the walk itself was about 25-30 km per day with auberges and restaurants placed at about that interval. Folks wore hand-woven sandals that lasted exactly one day of walking but were completely recyclable so they’d just get thrown to the side of the road and new ones worn the next day. I guess that means that the Japanese invented eco-tourism about three centuries ago, right?
If you are around Paris before mid-March, I’d highly suggest taking 90 minutes or so and enjoying this exceptional look into the beauty and silence of some incredible Ukiyo-E from Hiroshige. You’ll come away wishing you had a few months to walk these very same paths that even Hiroshige himself never walked.