Utagawa HIROSHIGE (1797-1858)


Utagawa Hiroshige (also known as Andō Hiroshige, 1797 – 1858), is most famous for his landscapes, such as the series The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsugi no uchi) and for his pictures of birds and plants (kacho-e). By that time, the mainstream focus of ukiyo-e was on beautiful women (bijin-ga) and popular kabuki actors (Yakusha-e). Hiroshige’s landscapes generally show travellers along famous routes during all seasons and show variety of vivid stops along the way.

His most famous student took over the master's name after his death in 1858. Hiroshige II finished the work of his master's well known series Meisho Edo Hyakkei (100 famous Views of Edo)


Landscape as a new genre

Probably in 1829–1830, Hiroshige began to create his first series of landscapes. Famous Places in the Eastern Capital (Tōto meisho) got published around 1831 by Kawaguchi Shozo. Hiroshige might have been influenced by Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which had been published by that time.

A journey to Kyoto in 1832, on which Hiroshige got invited, brought the chance to travel the famous Tōkaidō road, which leads from Edo (today Tokyo) to Kyoto. He illustrated the impressions along the way, and when he came back to Edo, he produced the series The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsugi no uchi).

Publishing the series Famous Views of the Sixty-odd Provinces (Rokujūyoshū Meisho Zue,1853 - 56), Hiroshige was also the first to use the vertical Oban format in landscape genre. Right after that, Hiroshige pushed his popularity once more, working with the publisher Uoya Eikichi on the very the famous series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei).


Hiroshiges influence on European artist

The Convention of Kanagawa in 1854 put an end to the isolation policy in Japan and Japonism became a new interest. By that time, Japanese woodblock prints and especially works by Hiroshige, came to have a strong influence on Western artists. Especially European impressionists studied closely Hiroshige's compositions. Van Gogh, just as one examples of many, collected ukiyo-e and painted copies of two prints from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo in 1887. Art Nouveau and Jugendstil also got affected by Japanese woodblock prints.


Topics of Hiroshiges series:

The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō Road (15 series)

The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō Road

Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji

Pictures of Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces

Views of Edo (3 series)

Eight Views of Ōmi (13 series)

Six Jewel Rivers (7 series)