Hiroshige is one of the most popular Japanese artists in
humble beginnings, Ando Hiroshige went from being a fire
warden to being considered perhaps the greatest painter and
printmaker of the nineteenth century. Hiroshige
worked in the medium of "ukiyo-e”, which is Japanese
for making prints that were widely distributed and his more
than 5,400 works are still popular today. Because
he worked with woodblock printing, quite a number of his
original works still circulate in the art world.
However, Hiroshige's legacy has also been preserved
with any number of modern reprintings of his most famous
was born in 1797 with the name Ando Tokutaro. His
father was a fire warden, and young Ando at first followed
him into this trade but there were early signs that Ando was
destined for a career in art.
For instance, a drawing or painting he did at age 10
is said to have aroused considerable interest from teachers
and artists nearby. When
both his parents died while he was just 12, young Ando
decided to pursue a career in art. In
1811, he enrolled as an apprentice with the famous Utagawa
painting school, working with ukiyo-e master Toyohiro
graduated in 1812, and as was traditional, took the name of
his master, christening himself Utagawa Hiroshige.
career has three defining periods. The
first period, from 1812 to about 1830, saw Hiroshige working
hard on book illustrations, as well as producing prints of
actors and young women. It was during the second period, which lasted until about
1845, that Hiroshige became popular for his landscapes and
portrayals of everyday life in Japan. It
is widely agreed by experts that Hiroshige put great care
and attention into his works during this part of his career,
which cannot be said of the years marking the third period.
In fact, works from this era are said to be rushed
and less precise, although they were still popular with
contemporary art buyers. Hiroshige
died in 1858 of cholera, and his death more or less
coincided with the end of the woodblock printing era.
most famous series of prints was Fifty-Three
Stations of the Tokaido, which he produced in 1833 and
1834. These prints depicted scenes at the way stations on the famous
Tokaido highway between Edo and Kyoto. Because
print making was like a serial story in a magazine (with the
audience wanting to see the culmination of the
"story"), most of Hiroshige's works can be
categorized as part of one series or another, with the
Tokaido highway being one of his favorite subjects.
Although Hiroshige's prints were beloved and were
commercially successful, he was not seen as a great cultural
icon during his lifetime. His value as an artist and as an observer of everyday events
only became apparent later on, long after the fire warden
whose prints enthralled a nation had died.
here to visit our Gallery of Hiroshige Ando prints.