Inspiring Artists: Hiroshige

July 28, 2017

Utagawa Hiroshige , also Andō Hiroshige (1797 –1858), was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist, considered one of the last great masters of that tradition. He was best known for his landscapes, birds and flowers and he was heavily influenced by Hokusai. His works define the way of life and culture of 19th century Japan and create atmosphere through there simple but effective use of line.

 

Hiroshige was born in 1797 in the Yayosu Quay in Edo (Tokyo). He was of a samurai background, and the great-grandson of Tanaka Tokuemon, a powerful leader in the northern province of Mutsu. As with all Japanese at the time, Hiroshige went through several name changes as a youth: Jūemon, Tokubē, and Tetsuzō.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When his father died Hiroshige took over his fathers fire warden duties and was charged with prevention of fires at Edo Castle, a duty that left him much leisure time. He started to paint and study art in his teens and by 1812 was permitted to sign his works, which he did under the art name Hiroshige. Hiroshige's apprentice work included book illustrations and single-sheet ukiyo-e prints of female beauties and kabuki actors in the Utagawa style, and in 1823, he resigned his post as fire warden.

 

 

 

 

 

It was not until 1829–1830 that Hiroshige began to produce the landscapes he has come to be known for, and he also produced an increasing number of bird and flower prints about this time. About 1831, his Ten Famous Places in the Eastern Capital was produced and he received an invitation to join an official procession to Kyoto in 1832. When he returned to Edo he produced the series The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō, which contains some of his best-known prints. Hiroshige built on the series' success by following it with others, such as the Illustrated Places of Naniwa (1834), Famous Places of Kyoto (1835), another Eight Views of Ōmi (1834).

Around 1838 Hiroshige produced two series entitled Eight Views of the Edo Environs, each print accompanied by a humorous kyōka poem. The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kiso Kaidōsaw prints from between 1835 and 1842, wasa joint production with Keisai Eisen, of which Hiroshige's share was forty-six of the seventy prints. Over the last decade of his life, Hiroshige produced thousands of prints to meet the demand for his works and also118 sheets for the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.

 

 

In 1856, Hiroshige "retired from the world," becoming a Buddhist monk. He died aged 62 during the great Edo cholera epidemic of 1858 and was buried in a Zen Buddhist temple in Asakusa.

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