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April 18, 2014

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Harn Museum Exhibition Explores Japan’s Tokaido Road through Woodblock Prints

Life is a Highway Showcases More than 150 Prints,
Spanning More than 100 Years of Japanese History

GAINESVILLE, FL, Apr. 18, 2014—This spring, the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida will mount an exhibition that explores the history of Japan’s Tokaido Road. On view from May 6 through August 17, 2014, Life is a Highway: Prints of Japan’s Tokaido Road will highlight a selection of more than 150 woodblock prints that depict the history of the Tokaido Road—the most heavily traveled route in pre-WWII Japan. Works by such notable Japanese printmakers as Utagawa Hiroshige, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Utagawa Kunisada, and Sekino Jun’ichiro will be included in the exhibition, which spans more than 100 years of Japanese printmaking traditions. Life is a Highway signals the Harn’s commitment to the exhibition, study, and preservation of Asian art, following the opening of the museum’s 26,000-square-foot Asian art wing.

Connecting the ancient political capital of Kyoto with the imperial city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo), the Tokaido Road was part of the Japanese government’s official highway system designed to facilitate communication between different parts of the country. The road was punctuated by towns, river crossings, and scenic sites, as well as government outposts that collected tolls and monitored transit. Beginning in the mid-19th century, the Tokaido and its various “stations” became a popular subject for several series of woodcuts designed by some of the country’s leading artists.

“For more than 100 years, the Tokaido Road was the main artery of the Japanese state, a point of convergence for the forces of commerce, government, and culture that shaped the nation’s pre-modern era,” said Jason Steuber, Cofrin Curator of Asian Art. “Life is a Highway will provide visitors with a wide range of artists’ perspectives on the Tokaido, bringing to life stories of classical literary and theatrical subjects, dangerous liaisons, tales of the supernatural, samurai legends, religious pilgrimage, and memorable characters from all walks of life. The exhibition will also examine how the prints reflected the modernization of the nation over the 19th and 20th centuries.”

The exhibition will be organized geographically according to the 53 traditional wayfaring stations of the Tokaido Road. A selection of Japanese textiles and objects will complement and add context to the prints on display. Notable highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Parallel Tokaido (1843-47) a woodblock print series that was created by Japanese woodcut artists—Utagawa Hiroshige, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and Utagawa Kunisada—working in the ukiyo-e tradition. The artists depict the road through historical and legendary stories associated with its numerous stations—one of the earliest examples of this approach—rather than through vignettes of the landscape. This series will be exhibited in its entirety.
  • Reisho Tokaido (1848-49), a selection from this series produced by Utagawa Hiroshige will be exhibited, which includes masterful depictions of landscape and figural forms encountered along the Tokaido.
  • Vertical Tokaido (1855), a selection from this series in which Utagawa Hiroshige departed from the horizontal page orientation that had been employed in previous depictions of the Tokaido.

  • 53 Stations of the Tokaido, a selection from this modern version of the Tokaido series created between 1959 and 1974 by Sekino Jun’ichiro reflect global perspectives on the intersection of traditional and modern sensibilities.

This exhibition is made possible by Ted and Hallie McFetridge with additional support from the 1923 Fund, the John V. and Patricia M. Carlson Program Endowment, Dragonfly and Central Florida Office Plus.

Admission to the museum is free. For more information, call 352-392-9826 or visit
Images are available for download at this web address:

The museum is offering a number of events for audiences of all ages.

Museum Nights
Thursday, May 8, 6 - 9 p.m.
“Road trip to Tokaido”
Celebrate the exhibition and Art Museum Day during this Museum Night. Art by K-12 Alachua County students and poetry and prose written by university students all inspired by the Harn’s collections, will be showcased. Visitors can add to our mural featuring what part of our collections make personal connections for them. Enjoy performances, art making, tours and other activities relating to Life is a Highway: Prints of Japan’s Tokaido Road.

Member pARTy
Saturday, May 10, 6 – 8:30 p.m.
Harn members will join in celebrating the opening of the exhibition. If you are not a member, you may join at the door.

Gallery Talk
Saturday, May 17, 3 p.m.
"High and Low on the Tokaido Road"
Ann Wehmeyer, UF Associate Professor of Japanese, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Celebrate Japanese Culture in the Harn Museum Store
Sunday, June 1, 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Browse the Harn Museum Store’s merchandise relating to Japanese culture and the Tokaido Road. View demonstrations on how to wear kimono, create bento lunches and paint in Sumi-e style.

Travel Talk
Sunday, June 1, 3 p.m.
“Japan: A Walk Through Time”
Jerry Heines, Author of “Japan’s Explosive Cultural Evolution”
Take a virtual tour of Japan’s history through this speaker’s travel experience and photos which include several important posts along the Tokaido Road. Heines’ book “Japan’s Explosive Cultural Evolution” will be sold in the Harn Museum Store with a book signing following his talk.

Family Day
Saturday, June 14, 1 – 4 p.m.
“Japanese Printing”
Take a family-friendly tour of the art on view in the exhibition. Print your own multi-color image of a playful scene from woodblocks prepared by a local artist and enjoy a demonstration of traditional woodblock cutting methods. A donation of $5 per family or $2 per child is requested if participating in the art activity.

Asian Garden Talk
Saturday, June 21, 11 a.m.
"Imagining the Japanese Coastline: Experience the Tokaido Road in the Harn’s Dry Garden"
Martin McKellar, Harn Volunteer and Asian Garden Specialist

Gallery Talk
Sunday, June 29, 3 p.m.
"Encounters on the Tokaido"
Allysa Browne Peyton, Harn Curatorial Associate for Asian Art

Gallery Talk
Sunday, August 3, 3 p.m.
"The Tokaido Road: Folk Tales and Travels"
Jason Steuber, Harn Cofrin Curator of Asian Art

Adult Studio Class: Relief Printing with Local Artist Leslie Peebles
Saturday, August 9, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. with an hour lunch break on your own
and/or Sunday, August 10, 1 – 4:30 p.m.
Cost: One and two day options available. Saturday, $100 non-members ($90 Harn members); Sunday, $50 non-members ($40 Harn members)
Participants in this beginner workshop will be inspired by prints from the exhibition and create their own relief prints. Saturday’s class will create a small multi-color reduction print on flexible printing plates using water-based inks and a small color print on hard linoleum using a printing press and oil-based ink. Sunday’s class will produce prints with linoleum using Chine-collé, watercolor and monoprint techniques.

About the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art
Founded in 1990, the Harn Museum of Art is an integral part of the University of Florida. The Harn contributes to an interconnected, international community by integrating the arts and culture into curricula throughout the university’s system of colleges and centers. Its holdings include more than 9000 works in five main collecting areas: Asian art, African art, photography, modern art of the Americas and Europe, and international contemporary art. The museum also has noteworthy collections of Oceanic and Ancient American Art and works on paper. In addition to rotating installations drawn from its permanent collection, the Harn organizes traveling exhibitions, public lectures, panel discussions, academic symposia, and educational programs for adults, students, and children.

The Harn Museum of Art, at 3259 Hull Road in Gainesville, Florida, is part of the University of Florida’s Cultural Plaza, which is also home to the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is open until 9 p.m. the second Thursday of every month for Museum Nights. The Camellia Court Café is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  For more information call 352-392-9826 or visit


Media contacts :
Tami Wroath
Harn Museum of Art
(352) 392-9826 x2116

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