Hiroshige is usually connected with landscape and nature prints. Together with Hokusai he is considered as the dominant figure of printmaking in the first half of the nineteenth century.
First Publication: May 2001
Latest Update: July 2013
Ando Hiroshige was born under the name of Ando Tokutaro. He was born in Edo (Tokyo) as the son of a samurai and fireman. At the age of twelve, both his parents died. Two years later, in 1811, the young Hiroshige received a chance to join the famous Utagawa painting school. At that time, the ukiyo-e master Toyohiro Utagawa was the head of the studio. In 1812 he was formally allowed to take the name Utagawa. From then on he called himself Utagawa Hiroshige. In the ukiyo-e literature he is usually referenced as Hiroshige Ando.
The first work by Utagawa Hiroshige was a book illustration published in 1818, when he was 21 years old. Until 1830, Hiroshige created prints in the traditional style learned from his master Toyohiro Utagawa. His early commissions were book illustrations. Typical subjects out of that time are kabuki actors prints, beautiful women and a few warrior prints.
From 1830 on, Hiroshige Utagawa tried his luck with a new genre - landscape prints. One of his great masterpieces is the series Tokaido gojusan-tsugi no uchi created from 1833 to 1834 with 55 Hiroshige prints in oban format. In the literature you will find slightly varying English translations like Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido or From the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido.
The Tokaido was a coastal highway connecting Edo with Kyoto, the residence of the emperor. The stations must be imagined as a kind of turn-pikes where tolls had to be paid. The stations had lodges and simple restaurants where travelers could spend the night and get a meal.
The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido became the basis of Hiroshige's fame and commercial success. For the next twenty years he concentrated his efforts on landscape prints.
Ukiyo-e publishing in the last century was not a cultural institution subsidized by public funds, but rather a commercial business like book publishing or a movie production in our time. And when a film turns out to become a big success, the public is asking for more, and the producer is only too happy to prepare the next follow-up.
Print publishing in the Edo period was not different. And so Hiroshige Utagawa produced more series of the Tokaido.
At the end of his life, Hiroshige had produced 16 to 19 editions of the Tokaido.
Other famous series produced by Utagawa Hiroshige are:
His last great series Meisho Edo Hyakkei, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo is considered as one of his greatest masterpieces.
During his lifetime, Ando Hiroshige was well known and commercially successful. But the Japanese society did not take too much notice of him. Comparable to Utamaro, his real reputation started with his discovery in Europe.
The late Hiroshige prints are considered as lower in quality. He had produced too many and too fast in order to meet the demand of the market. Hiroshige Utagawa died at the age of 62 of cholera on October 12, 1858 in Edo. With an output of an estimated 5,400 prints, Ando Hiroshige was one of the prolific artists of ukiyo-e.
I found this wonderful video on Youtube. Thanks to 'Bullet Train" - whoever you are. And thanks for your clear and easy to understand English.
This video takes us on a trip to trace what the famous view of Okitsu from Hiroshige'e famous Stages of the Tokaido looks today. A bit disillusionary it is. But really interesting.
You find many more prints by Ando Hiroshige in our archive of sold prints with actual prices, detailed descriptions and large images. Try our archive for your research. It is for free.
Author: Dieter Wanczura
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