Hiroshige

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Utagawa Hiroshige, also known as Ando Hiroshige, was an influential and prolific Japanese landscape artists, who is considered to be one of the two great masters of the art of Japanese landscape woodblock print, his work is given eminent and precedent importance after that of the notable Japanese painter, Hokusai. Hiroshige is best known and celebrated for his landscapes that painted exuberant and delightful scenes of rain, snow and mist, and led to him being labelled as the ‘artist of rain, snow and mist’.

Hiroshige was born in 1797, in Edo, which is basically modern day Tokyo. His father, Ando Genemon, worked as the warden of the Edo fire brigade. Hiroshige exhibited a natural artistic talent and a passion for avid sketching. Evidence suggests that he received his earliest training from a fireman, who had mastered the Chinese style of the traditional Kano school of painting. In 1809, upon reaching the age of 12, Hiroshige was deprived of the care of his mother when she met her sudden death. Even though his father encouraged his inclination and passion for art, he resigned his post as the warden which as per the tradition of heritage, passed on to Hiroshige. Shortly after, his father too passed away and Hiroshige was left in the world with his minimal duties and petty wages as a fire warden.

Following the death of both his parents, Hiroshige began to give free rein to his passion for art and truly immersed himself in developing and perfecting his natural talent. In 1811, he enrolled himself in the school of the great ukiyo-e, Master Utagawa Toyohiro. The tutelage of the great Master helped Hiroshige discover his true potential and develop a modest and highly refined style that gave an intense expression and great subtlety to the landscape print. In 1812, Hiroshige became a devout follower of the Utagawa School, and his teacher gave him the name, ‘Hiroshige’.

At the young age of 15, Hiroshige received the prestigious nom d’artiste and a school license. However, it was not until 1818, six years later that he first showcased and published his work. Hiroshige’s work began garnering much appreciation and praise, and he managed to establish himself as prominent figure in the field of book illustrations.

With the birth of his own son in 1823, Hiroshige was able to dispose of his duties as the fire warden by passing them on to his son, and devote his time and energies to his work. He began discovering his true potential and talent as an artist, and soon, landscapes became his forte. In 1829, he showcased his first landscape series, ‘Eight Famous Views of Omi’, which was soon followed by the remarkable ten-print series, ‘Famous Places of the Eastern Capital’. His art was met with much appreciation, praise and critical acclaim, and he garnered considerable fame and commercial success.

In 1832, Hiroshige decided to make his first journey down the Tokaido Highway, and during this journey, he produced some of his great works, of which most widely applauded and praised is the series, ‘Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido’. Some of the other works that are themed on the 53 Tokaido stations include, “Gyosho Tokaido”, “Reisho Tokaido”, and “Upright Tokaido”.

Other critically acclaimed and widely celebrated series by Hiroshige include, “Sixty-Nine Stages of the Kisokaido”, “Famous Places in the Sixty-Odd Provinces”; “Famous Places of Edo: A Hundred Views”, “Eight Views of Lake Biwa”; and “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”.

 

 

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