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Utagawa Hiroshige

A print of curving river at dusk or dawn with a boat on the left side with three figures. On the right side a tree leans over from a raised bank.
Also known as
Andô Hiroshige, I, Hiroshige, Andô Hiroshige, Tokutarô, Jûbei, Jûemon, Tokubei, Ichiryûsai, Ichiyûsai, Ryûsai, Tôkaidô Utashige, Hiroshige I
Date of birth
Date of death

Utagawa Hiroshige is recognized as a master of the ukiyo-e woodblock printing tradition, having created 8,000 prints of everyday life and landscape in Edo-period Japan with a splendid, saturated ambience. Orphaned at 12, Hiroshige began painting shortly thereafter under the tutelage of Toyohiro of the Utagawa school. His early work of narrow, vertical landscapes picturing thatched houses nestled between cliffs and vignettes of birds perched on flowering branches shows the influence of Chinese scroll painting as well as the previously dominant Kanō school of Japanese painting.

Much of Hiroshige’s work focuses on landscape. Partly inspired by Katsushika Hokusai’s popular Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, Hiroshige took a softer, less formal approach with his Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido (1833–34), completed after traveling that coastal route linking Edo and Kyoto. Mountains grow green and bands of salmon-colored sunrise hang in the mist in prints like Maisaka—No. 31, where traders and farmers mundanely pass by in the foreground.

Hiroshige’s prolific output was somewhat due to his being paid very little per series. Still, this did not deter him, as he receded to Buddhist monkhood in 1856 to complete his brilliant and lasting One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (1856–58). He died in 1858, 10 years before Monet, Van Gogh, Whistler, and a host of Impressionist painters became eager collectors of Japanese art. And so Hiroshige’s surging bokashi, or varied gradient printing, lives on—visibly influencing artists like Paul Gauguin (see the Art Institute’s Mahana no atua, 1894) and Frank Lloyd Wright.

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