Utagawa Hiroshige was a 19th century artist in Japan, one of the last masters of the ukiyo-e style. This famous and easily
recognizable type of Japanese art includes scenes or views of Kabuki actors with dramatic masks, folk scenes, travel accounts, and landscapes. Although some ukiyo-e
artists were known for paintings, the majority of these works are woodblock prints.
The printmaking process employed a multitude of people to create the finished product, including an artist, a woodcarver, a printer, and a publisher. The artist would render the image, which would then be cut into individual layers by the woodcarver. Once each layer had been carved, it would be sent to the printer where it would be inked and pressed against hand-made paper. All of this production was funded by the publisher who would eventually advertise, sell, and distribute the prints. Since these works were traditionally done by hand it allows for the opportunity to use techniques like gradients or blending that machines could not replicate.
The two pieces entitled Seki (The Wall) and Goyu are scenes from a larger series, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido. This series contains 55 illustrations of the 53 various views upon the Japanese road of Tokaido which linked the old capital city of Edo with the new capital, Kyoto. Each station is rendered in the beautiful Japanese tradition of woodblock and was one of the favorite styles of the French Impressionist Claude Monet.