Utagawa Hiroshige

Utagawa Hiroshige

As the last true master of traditional Japanese woodblock printing, Utagawa Hiroshige imbued the Japanese landscapes in a lyrical that drew on the temporary nature of pure pleasure. In the late Edo era, when travel and recreation were more easily obtainable to the middle class, Hiroshige remembered everyday life and created a view of the nation in which the natural fluctuations and the related ceremonies played an important part. This portrayal of Japan, enhanced by Hiroshige's vibrant hues and unorthodox organizational style, received great attention both in Japan and abroad. European artists adapted his beautiful colors and themes, transferring his interest in the fleeting into other contexts.

Early life

Utagawa Hiroshige, the youngest child of And Gen'emon, was born And Tokutar in 1797. As a young child, Hiroshige's name constantly changed; he also went by Tetsuz, Jemon, and Tokub. The And family qualified for a perpetual position as firefighters in the public service since they were Samurai, the top position of the four Japanese classes. They resided in the Yayosu Riverbank section of Edo, now Tokyo, and were the capital of the Japanese empire from 1603. There isn't much available information about Hiroshige's private life or beliefs, but what is known indicates that tragedy marked his family background, starting with the passing of an older sister when he was just three. His mother died unexpectedly in 1809 when he was eleven, and his father passed away a few months after he turned twelve.

Shortly before his passing, Hiroshige's father gave his historic title to his son, giving Hiroshige a wage that could easily accommodate 2 persons and a vocation that was generally specified; many persons in the firefighter pursuing other careers, including painting, in addition to their jobs. How Hiroshige became passionate about art and why or when he decided to use prints as his art are both unknown. Some rumors say the young artist was exposed to painting when he was nine years old by his father's friend Okajima Rinsai, a fireman, but these claims are probably false.

Early Training

Hiroshige was approved as a student of Utagawa Toyohiro, a Ukiyo-e artist who excelled in prints of kabuki theatre players and other figures, in 1811. As was the custom, Hiroshige adopted his master's name, Utagawa, and mixed numerous meanings from elements in both his master's and his own identities to construct the formal title that became famous as Utagawa Hiroshige. Following his mentor's footsteps, Hiroshige launched his artistic career by making woodblock prints of kabuki artists and gorgeous women and storyline graphics for humorous poetry. He continued to use his job as a fire warden to promote his growth as an artist.

In 1821, Hiroshige wed Okabe Yuaemon, the firefighter's daughter, and their first child, Nakajir, was born that year. Up until 1829, he painted prints that accentuated figures. Then, he started working on the environments for which he would later become famed. Katsushika Hokusai, who had just started to revive the landscape style, served as Hiroshige's influence for the 1831 publication of the ten-part serial Outstanding Pictures of the Eastern Palace.

In 1832, Hiroshige transferred his duties as a fire brigade to his son Nakajir. His motives for taking this relatively early resignation from the civil servants are unknown; some have speculated that they may have been inspired by a prior ancestry error arising from his father's adoption into the And family, which may have compromised his claims to the job. Although experts agree that Translations did not quit his job to focus only on printing, his independence from other duties allowed him to establish himself as a successful artist quickly.

The Tokaid, which linked Kyoto, home of the imperial palace, with Edo, the new capital, was the line that Hiroshige entered in the same year. Ten and sixteen days were necessary to complete this journey on foot over the main caravan route in Japan, which went by various temples, historic and ally shrines significant landscapes. Others frequently visited for leisure, savoring the local landscape and the drinks and food offered at the waystations all along the path, while the team Hiroshige joined traveled the road to bring horses to the court. 53 Stations of the Tokaid, Hiroshige's first big collection, was the consequence of this voyage and was finished in 1834.

Mature Period

Hiroshige worked fast and consistently from 1834 to 1839, when much of his finest work was made and released after realizing his aptitude for landscape. Speculation around Hiroshige's way of life and economic situation during this time; some speculate that he had a typical middle-class living, engaging in regular drinking and wholesome feeding, while others maintain that his behaviors were more subdued. However, the period seems to have been difficult because of the Great Tenp crisis, which led to a food crisis across the country. Hiroshige's wife is thought to have raised money for his trip costs by selling apparel and other items to support his career. However, she passed away in 1839, briefly ending his output.

The feudal system forbade prints portraying performers and entertainers in 1842 to improve the country's spiritual culture, which put Hiroshige in a stronger place than many other ukiyo-e artists. Hiroshige blended visions of the rural areas with the speech of the famous print and invested in the desire for transport, while others stuck to the conventional practice of portraying landscapes and important historical places as stunning and fetishized. As an outcome, viewers were given groups of designs that evoked the knowledge of journeys and the public with a sense of communal holdings over the nationwide landscapes, which were previously believed to be purely the asset of the imperia.

Late Period

Hiroshige wed again in 1847, this time to Oyasu, a farmer's daughter who was approximately fifteen years his junior. In 1848, the couple migrated to Kanshind, a different location in Edo, where Hiroshige took out loans to construct a new residence and adopted a daughter called Tatsu. Tatsu later wed two of Hiroshige's students, separating Hiroshige II and then wed Hiroshige III.

Throughout this time, Hiroshige created paintings featuring stunning women and trained a group of students who, as was typical, acquired his name. Even though it is unknown if Hiroshige's poor pupil choices or his ineffective instructional techniques are to blame for his three students' lack of artistic achievement, they are both probable factors. He opted to shave his head to train as a Buddhist monk in 1856. One Hundredth Wonderful Views of Edo, which Hiroshige painted in 1857, had a massive impact on Europe because of its vibrant colors and unorthodox angles. He continued to create art.

Hiroshige became ill in 1858, most probably due to the outbreak of cholera in Japan that caused 28,000 people.

He passed away at 62 and was put to rest in an Asakusa Zen Buddhist monastery. Over the entire life course, he created over 5,000 print designs, some replicas.

 Legacy of Utagawa Hiroshige

Since the Meiji Period started, major cultural developments forced Japanese painters to travel outside of their country for ideas; Hiroshige is recognized as the last true ukiyo-e master. His impact can be more easily seen in Europe than in Japan. In the late nineteenth and early nineteenth century, French and Dutch painters exploring innovative solutions to landscape painting took inspiration from Hiroshige's lyricism and bright use of color. To gain insight from Hiroshige's paintings, Vincent van Gogh produced replicas. Hiroshige's influence may be observed in van Gogh's use of vivid yellows and oranges among blues. Hiroshige affected Édouard Manet's use of shading, and his exaggerated images of beautifully bent plants and trees motivated many Art Nouveau painters and makers.

Hiroshige's work significantly impacted the Japonism trend, which saw artists like James McNeil Ogilvie and James Tissot imitating his printing technique and using renderings of his paintings as markers of taste for the modern home. The reputation of ukiyo-e prints in the late 19th century was such that they were considered emblems of intelligence, great taste, and riches that might be used in interiors or portraits to impart these qualities upon their owners. This is extremely evident in Whistler's 1864 painting Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Display, in which the artist's design, Joanna Hiffernan, is represented by lauding pictures from Hiroshige's Viewpoints of the Sixty-odd Counties work that Whistler himself currently owns dressed in a kimono and seated next to the screen.

More recently, Hiroshige's work has inspired Nigel Caple, whose paintings along the Tkaid were modeled after all those of Hiroshige, and Julian Opie, one whose flat esthetic derives from that of Hiroshige's woodcut. Hokusai and Hiroshige's landscapes are generally recognized to have affected the creation of modern manga; scenes that analyze melancholy or the passage of time usually mention Hiroshige's allusions to seasonal celebrations.


Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake

Plum Park in Kameido

One Hundred Famous Views of Edo “Plum Garden in Kamata”

Ama No Hashidate in Tango Province

One Hundred Famous Views of Edo “Kawaguchi Ferry and Zenkoji 

Temple”Itsukushima in Aki Province

Yugasan in Bizan Province

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