Providentially, as we now see it, Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) failed to gain admittance to Toyokuni's academy and studied under Toyohiro instead. His early work, book-illustrations and figure designs, is not remarkable, but about 1826 his genius for landscape was made evident in a series of Edo views, and confirmed beyond doubt in 1834 by his first series of prints of the 'Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido', the great highway between the new and old capitals, Edo and Kyoto. From that time on, Hiroshige's industry in recording the beautiful Japanese scenery was astonishing, literally thousands of designs pouring from his brush.
Among the most famous of the other series are 'Eight Views of Lake Omi'; the 'Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisakaido'; 'Views of the Sixty-nine-odd Provinces'; the 'One hundred Views of Edo'; and the 'Thirty-six Views of Fuji'. His kacho-e and designs for fan-mounts are also noteworthy.
From Hillier J., Japanese Colour Prints, Phaidon, 3rd edn,1993
1797-1858, active 1818-1858.Hiroshige.the last great master of ukiyo-e, was born in Edo in 1797, the son of a fireman. His mother died when he was only twelve, and he lost his father just a year after that. He inherited his father's position, but as early as 1811, in other words at the age of fourteen, he joined the school of the ukiyo-e master Toyohiro, having been rejected by Toyokuni, who was at that time extremely popular. After a year in Toyohiro s workshop, he was honoured with the artists pseudonym of Utagawa Hiroshige. When Toyohiro died in 1828, he took over both his studio and his name, calling himself Toyohiro II.
His first publication, a book illustration, came out in 1818 and bore the signature Ichiryusai Hiroshige. During this period he was also studying both the Kano and the "impressionist" Shijo styles, which were to have such an influence on his later work. In the years up to 1830, he occupied himself, as his predecessors had done, with figural work, in particular prints of girls, actors and warriors. After Toyohiro s death, he transferred his attentions to another artistic theme, namely that of landscape and nature studies. This field had already been revolutionized by Hokusai, who had raised it to the status of an independent genre. Eisen and other portrait-painters had also taken up this new theme. Hiroshige began his own career as a landscape painter in 1830 with his "Famous Places in the Eastern Capital", but fame only came in 1833/34 with his "53 Stations on the Tokaido" — the great imperial road that linked Edo with Kyoto. These pictures represented the outcome of a journey in which he had participated as an official in a government mission to the imperial court in Kyoto. Hiroshige s orders were to produce sketches and drawings of various ceremonies. Further journeys followed, which inspired him to produce more landscape studies. From May to December 1841 he travelled through the province ofKai, in 1852 the provinces ofKazusa and Awa as far as the west coast, and in 1854 he made another official trip to Kyoto. The artistic yield of these travels came in the form of further series of woodblock prints:
"Famous Places in Kyoto", "Eight Views of Lake Biwa", "Famous Places in Naniwa", "Eight Views ofKanazawa", "36 Views of Mount Fuji", and "69 Stations on the Kisokaido" — the Kisokaido being the mountain route from Edo to Kyoto. Hiroshige's landscapes are characterized by an atmospheric colour reflecting the changes in nature at different times of the day and year, and in rain, snow and storm. Nor should his tender pictures of flowers and birds be forgotten. Altogether, Hiroshige produced more than 5,400 woodblock prints. His success and his popularity are legendary. He also exerted an influence on Western art, and above all on the Impressionists, who were able to view his work at the Paris Expositions Universelles of 1855, 1867 and 1878. Vincent van Gogh acquired a number of his pictures.
From Fahr-Becker G., Japanese Prints, Taschen Verlag GmbH, 1999