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Hiroshige

  • Date Submitted: 08/26/2011 08:40 AM
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Hiroshige is usually connected with landscape and nature prints. Together with Hokusai he is considered as the dominant figure of printmaking in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The Son of a Fire Warden
Ando Hiroshige was born under the name of Ando Tokutaro. He was born in Edo (Tokyo) as the son of a samurai andfireman. 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. 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.
Early Years
The first work by Utagawa Hiroshige was a book illustration published in 1818, when he was 21 years old. Until 1830, Hiroshige created prints 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.
Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido
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. In the literature you will find slightly varying English translations like Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido or From the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido.
The Tokaido was a coastal highway connecting Edo with Kyoto, the residence of the emperor. The stations must be imagined as a kind of turn-pikes where tolls had to be paid. The stations had lodges and simple restaurants where travelers could spend the night and get a meal.
The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido became the basis of Hiroshige's fame and commercial success. For the next twenty years he concentrated his efforts on landscape prints....

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