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Hiroshige

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Michael Buxton

Hiroshige

Artist Biography

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 Hiroshige

Hiroshige was one of the most famous Japanese artists of the Ukiyo-e school. He was especially revered for his landscapes depicting lyrical scenes of everyday life. Hiroshige was born under the name of Ando Tokutaro in Edo (now 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, creating art, prints and posters. 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 or Ichiyusai Hiroshige.

The first work by Utagawa Hiroshige was a book illustration published in 1818, when he was 21 years old. Until 1830, Hiroshige created art, prints and posters 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.

Hiroshige became one of the most popular and prolific artists of his period, producing 5400 pieces of art, prints and posters over his lifetime. Though Hiroshige's work was not as daring as that of Hokusai, the artist he so admired, Hiroshige was revered then and now for his poetic chronicles of daily life in 19th-century Japan. His mastery had a profound influence on Western Art, especially the Impressionists. Vincent Van Gogh acquired a number of his pictures. Hiroshige, the last great master of the ukiyo-e, died in 1858 from cholera.

Hiroshige Art, Prints and Posters Collection