Presented in conjunction with “Megacities Asia,” this print exhibition highlights how two great cities on opposite sides of the world captured imaginations in the early 19th century, becoming the subject of nearly obsessive attention by artists. London and Edo (modern-day Tokyo) were among the largest cities of their time, with populations of more than 1 million. Both were home to vibrant publishing industries, producing a stream of words and pictures depicting the sights and wonders of the great metropolis. At the center of the exhibition are two series of prints celebrating the great cities through the lens of their own time: Famous Places in the Eastern Capital (1832–42) by Utagawa Hiroshige I (1797–1858) and The Microcosm of London (1808–10) by Rudolph Ackermann (1764–1834), which featured work by Augustus Charles Pugin (1769–1832) and Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827). Through these and related works, the exhibition highlights similarities—markets, theaters, government buildings, famous views—as well as revealing important differences. Ultimately, Hiroshige, Pugin, and Rowlandson reveal two great cities that were about to undergo wrenching change, as both Edo and London transformed from mercantile cities to industrial ones.
Above: Utagawa Hiroshige I, Theaters in Nichōmachi from the series Famous Places in the Eastern Capital (detail), Edo period, about 1832–38. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Gift of Adams Collection.