On the Tokaido Road - Masterpieces from the Leskowicz Collection

From 10 July to 7 October 2019 to MNNA-Guimet.

The recent acquisition of an important album of Tokaido prints that belonged to Victor Segalen (1878-1919), poet, novelist and sinologist, is an opportunity to present for the first time to the public this road around which include many famous prints.

The Tokaido or "East Sea route" is the most important route (kaido) from Japan. It is best known in Europe for being a picturesque coastline, more exactly one of the five Gokaido routes, as much as a tourist route as a route involved in the construction of a political space in Japan from the Edo period (1603- 1868).
Circulation on this route developed rapidly from the time of Kamakura (1185-1333), while the capital was located in this city not far from Edo (Tokyo). It is vital at the time of Edo, binding Kyoto, place of residence of the emperor, to Edo, capital of the shogun. The remarkable and famous sites are scattered all along the way: Odawara, Hakone, Mishima, Nissaka, Nakayama Pass, Suzuka Pass and the famous Ise sanctuary. Succession of spectacular views, overlooking most of the time the sea, clinging to the escarpments, starting to attack the mountainous terrain and difficult, it offered remarkable dives in vertiginous landscapes. The captivating viewpoints, everywhere present, play rivers, inns, effects of gaps inwards or on the sea. Along its route fifty-three relays were arranged; as far as prints are concerned, the famous Hiroshige series (1797-1858), to which is added the Nihonbashi bridge, a starting point in Edo and Sanjo in Kyoto, the final point of the trip.

While walking on the road of Tokaido, the MNAAG proposes to its visitors to accompany it in a literary, artistic and memorial enterprise.
Memoriale first, because it is on the occasion of the acquisition of a superb album which belonged to Victor Segalen (1878-1919) that the idea of ​​this exhibition was born. One hundred years ago, the man of letters who was known to be more passionate about China than amateur of Japan would die. We do not know the circumstances that brought into the presence of an exceptional group of 1863's "processionary Tokaido" and the sinologist. But it is an opportunity to present another vision of this road, more attached to depicting situations and characters that offer a very interesting testimony of the last years of the shogunate.
As an artistic enterprise in the first place, it is what Tokaido is in the collective imagination. This is what the "Segalen album" shows through its almost 200 prints and its cohort of artists: Utagawa Kunisada, Hiroshige II, Toyohara Kunichika, Kawanabe Kyosai, Utagawa Sadahide, etc. How, around this ultimate set intended to remind the emperor of the good services of a shogun now on the decline, do not evoke the work of the great predecessors on this picturesque and famous road? Hokusai of course, Hiroshige more than anything. The matter was vast and that's why we decided to focus on the most famous sight series, the Fifty-three Tokaidō stations (Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi) of Utagawa Hiroshige. The museum does not have all the splendid edition called Hoeido of 1833-1834. Mr. Jerzy Leskowicz, an outstanding collector and friend of the museum, was kind enough to follow us on the way and to do us the honor of entrusting us for a time an exceptional first complete draw of his collections. Hiroshige thus serves us as a guide, not without being accompanied by scarcely less known prints and travel guides from the end of the Edo period, owned by the same collector; they illustrate the excitement around this road.
This coastal route with breathtaking views and many difficulties also aroused abundant literary material including the famous work of Jippensha Ikku. The way has changed today, but through the prints the magic remains unchanged and restores a Japan that always makes us dream.

The album "Last Tokaido" concludes a long tradition. Numerous Japanese artists have illustrated, in various forms, in whole or in part, the major steps marking the road that connects Kyoto, imperial capital, to Edo (Tokyo), capital of Shogun.


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