Ando Hiroshige (1797–1858), a renowned Japanese artist, considered “one of the last great ukiyo-e” (“pictures of the floating world”) (Britannica), he was a master of color woodblock print. He is most famous for his landscape prints, which render natural Japanese landscapes encompassed by their idiosyncratic moods in a very expressive, even poetic manner. Because of this, he was best known as "the artist of rain, snow and mist". (Chiappa)
Hiroshige was born in Edo, Japan (modern day Tokyo) in 1797. At this time, it was the norm for a son to follow his father’s vocation. Hiroshige’s father, Andō Genemon, was a fire-watchman and he spent most of his time as his father’s apprentice but on occasion, he would work on art- a trait he inherited by his father. However, when Hiroshige was 12 years old, he lost both of his parents which changed his life, vocation and destiny. “His own natural bent for art, eventually led him to enter, about 1811, the school of the ukiyo-e master Utagawa Toyohiro…Although receiving a nom d’artiste and a school license at the early age of 15, Hiroshige was no child prodigy, and it was not until six years later, in 1818, that his first published work appeared.” (Britannica)
Similar to his artwork, Hiroshige had an ever-changing history, as shown through several name changes that include at least 12 varying names throughout his lifetime. The use of multiple names was a common practice of Japanese artists of the time, and Hiroshige was no different. He even changed his name to that of one of his schools, Utagawa School, with the name Utagawa Hiroshige. (Chiappa) His original name was Andō Tokutarō. The most well known names being:
In his youth: Jūemon, Tokubē, and Tetsuzō .
His profession: Utagawa Hiroshige, Ichiyūsai Hiroshige and Ando Hiroshige.
Hiroshige’s name changes are so recurrent, and so often related to changes in his artistic production and style, that they are useful for breaking his life up into periods.
During Hiroshige’s earliest period, he mostly composed book illustrations and prints of women. Here is an example of his earlier work - Snow Scene in the Garden of a Daimyo:
Notice the vibrant use of color, tone and graphic use of lines and space.
Transitioning from book illustrations, beautiful women and actors to landscapes, Hiroshige started producing transition prints of birds, flowers and other examples of nature. Below is an example of one of these types of prints: Small Bird on a Branch of Kaidozakura (Kaido Ni Shokin).
Again one is drawn to the intricate line work, the layers of vibrant colors and Hiroshige’s ability to take the ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary.
While researching Ando Hiroshige, the first and most prominent works found by this masterful artist are his landscapes. The most famous of which are his 46 prints called, collectively, as The Thirty-six Views of Fuji and the next year he executed Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido Road, which established him as the leading printmaker of the day. (Browse Biography) Below is a short video documentary by the BBC that showcases the artist and his most famous prints.
As the video shows, Hiroshige played an important part in encouraging people to travel. While viewing his prints, people felt as though they had traveled these paths. Furthermore, “It established this new major theme of ukiyo-e, the landscape print, or fūkei-ga, with a special focus on "famous views.” For a more detailed view of each specific piece, I would suggest that one view this page:
Interestingly, Ando Hiroshige had an enormous influence on other mediums in the art world. For instance, “During his time in Paris, Vincent van Gogh was an avid collector of ukiyo-e, amassing with his brother a collection of several hundred prints purchased in the gallery of S. Bing. This collection included works from The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō, and Van Gogh incorporated stylistic elements from his collection into his own work, such as bright colors, natural details, and unconventional perspectives. In his personal correspondence, he stated, "...all of my work is founded on Japanese art...", and described the Impressionists as "the Japanese of France".(Wikipedia) Even more impressive was the quote by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, an avid collector of Hiroshige’s work, “including those of The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō. In 1906, he staged the first ever retrospective of Hiroshige's work at the Art Institute of Chicago, describing them in the exhibition catalog as some of “the most valuable contributions ever made to the art of the world.”” (Wikipedia) According to Hiroshige.org, Monet was also heavily influenced by this last great ukiyo-e artist.
I was personally drawn to this artist because I have an interest in Japanese art, as well as their culture, landscapes and their influence over the course of history in art. Hiroshige’s prints encompass a variety of form, color variations, layering, and depth that inspired artists throughout history and even today. His use of vibrant amount of space, although very flat and two-dimensional, shows a very stylized, unique and expressive movement throughout his prints and has proven his legacy to be one of the most prolific artists of all time.
BBC Hiroshige Documentary . , British Broadcasting Corporation, 2013. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxT5Pldsyqk
Chiappa, J. Noel. "Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)." J. Noel Chiappa mercury.lcs.mit.edu/~jnc/prints/hiroshige.html. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.
Hiroshige.org.uk www.hiroshige.org.uk/index.html. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.
Lane, Richard. Encyclopedia Britannica https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hiroshige. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.