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Angry Sea at Naruto in Awa Province

#55 from the series Famous Views of the 60-odd Provinces

Date: originally published in 1855 by the publisher Koshimuraya, this is c. 1920s published by Hasegawa/Nishinomiya from recarved wood blocks; listed as No. 301. in the 1930 Hasegawa catalog
Size: oban, approx.10.5" x 15.5"
Condition: VG, some toning in sky area and on verso, otherwise fine, never framed, uncirculated condition, "made in Japan" on verso
Impression: Fine, solid key lines, tight color registration and good surface texture
Color: Fine, remarkably well preserved color for a print of this vintage; deep saturated color with bleed through to verso
Provenance: from the estate of Robert O. Muller (see below for more information)

Although rarely seen and generally neglected by scholars until the book Hiroshige's Journey was published, the series Famous Views of the 60-Odd Provinces contains many masterpieces of Hiroshige's oeuvre including the print shown here, "Angry Sea at Naruta in Awa Province."

THE NARUTO STRAIT is only about 4,265 feet wide separating Tokushima Prefecture on the island of Shikoku and the smaller island of Awaji. In this narrow channel the waters of the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean come together. The difference in water level of the Inland Sea, hemmed in by land, and the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, the ebb and flow of the tides causes an extremely rapid current, which is rushed against the sea-bed to form giant eddies known as the Naruto Whirlpools. Rapid flows create whirling currents at low tide, especially during the spring. In April you can see numerous whirlpools in the surface of the sea, when eddies carve swirling holes about 30 across and six feet deep that move about 12 miles per hour.

Robert O. Muller’s love affair with Japanese prints began one day in the 1930s, when as a student in New York City he spotted a Hasui in a gallery window, and immediately arranged to purchase the print. As a newly wed in 1940 he went on a print shopping tour to Japan with his wife where he met the shin hanga publisher Watanabe Shozaburo and Watanabe’s stable of artists including: Kawase Hasui, Shiro Kasamatsu, and Ito Shinsui. He also met and befriended Hiroshi Yoshida.

After WWII, Muller continued to deal in Japanese prints, but he was also an avid collector with a keen eye for good art. Although the Muller Collection is best known for shin hanga, Mr. Muller also collected late nineteenth century prints and good reproductions of famous Edo masters.

When Mr. Muller passed away on April 10, 2003, he had left possibly the largest and finest collection of 20th century Japanese prints in the world, and the question of what would become of his notorious collection was a major topic among Japanese print collectors. The finest 20th century prints from his collection were given as a gift to the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., and an exhibit was mounted. Other portions of the collection were sold at auction and still more remains with his heirs. Several books have been published about the collection.

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