Hiroshige was a well-known Japanese artist born in 1797,
working his art until 1858.
During his time, Hiroshige created beautiful pieces
under several additional names such as Andro Hiroshige,
Andro Hiroshige, and Ichiyusai Hiroshige.
This artist’s father was a hereditary retainer of
the shogun, working to protect the Edo castle as a member of
the fire-fighting organization.
Working this reputable and decent-paying job,
Hiroshige’s father lived along with 30 other samurai
officials in barracks. As a part of this job, the men would oversee some 300 lower
ranking workers. Some
of the woodblock prints coming out of the Kano school show
firefighters being taught by other firefighters.
The interesting aspect of Hiroshige’s work is that
much of it had a slight modern look.
However, one piece in particular stands out called
the ”Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji” in which he
captured 36 unique views of the same mountain in Ukiyo-e
and other Hiroshige landscape work is, reportedly among some
of the most beautiful that were ever created.
Even though his work was popular, to make financial
ends meet, he supplemented his income by making crafts.
It seemed a likely choice for Hiroshige to choose
landscape as his favorite venue since he often played with
miniature landscapes as a child.
Then beginning his painting career at a very young
age and with extreme success, Hiroshige was destined to
become a famous Japanese woodblock artist.
Taking his natural talent along with his teaching at
the Kano school by Okajima Rinsai catapulted his career.
Although Hiroshige completed his apprenticeship under
Toyohiro at age 15, he was given the name Utagawa Toyohiro,
rather than Toyokuni. However,
he would soon take his master’s name of Ichiyusai
works by Hiroshige included “Ten Famous Places in the
Eastern Capital” and “Eight Views of Lake Biwa”.
While these particular woodblock prints were sold,
their success was only mild.
Most historians believe he spent much of his time
under Toyohiro painting small, insignificant objects such as
His first real success with painting landscapes was
with a series
called “The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido”, which
was prompted after Hiroshige visited the Tokaido Road after
being asked to visit the embassy of Shogunal officials in
the Imperial Court. Hiroshige
remained in the barracks until age 43, holding the fire
protection position once held by his father, which had been
passed to him at the age of 12 when his father died.
Dedicated to fire fighting, Hiroshige continued this
service even when he had become very successful as a painter
of woodblock prints.
Hiroshige II was a young artist by the name of
Shigenobu, marrying Hiroshige’s own daughter.
After he and his wife separated, Shigenobu began to
use the name of Hiroshige, thus becoming the II.
When Tatsu, the estranged wife remarried a man named
Shigemasa, he not only became Hiroshige’s heir but also
worked as a firefighter. Eventually, Hiroshige turned everything over to Shigemasa,
now known as Hiroshige III, which occurred in 1832. Unfortunately, the master Hiroshige was an amazing artist and
a very successful one at that but both Hiroshige II and III
were not nearly as gifted.
Even when Hiroshige began to age, he continued
painting, producing literally thousands of beautiful prints.
By 1856, Hiroshige finally retired at which time he
transitioned to a Buddhist monk, the same year his work on
“100 Famous Views of Edo” began.
Sadly, this magnificent woodblock print artist died
at the age of 62, being buried in Asakusa in a Zen Buddhist