Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando)

Japanese 1797-1858



Often referred to as the last great figure of the Ukiyo-e (popular school of printmaking), Utagawa Hiroshige was of humble beginnings. Born Ando Tokutaro in Edo (now Tokyo) to low-ranking samurai parents, it was expected that Hiroshige would follow the path of his father and spend his life as a fire watchman. But his father had encouraged his young son’s artistic inclinations and soon after being orphaned at twelve, the ambitious boy became a pupil of woodblock artist Toyohiro, himself a pupil of the Utagawa school under its founder, Toyaharu.


In 1812, at just fifteen, Hiroshige was formally adopted into the Utagawa School and thus given the right to assume the Utagawa name. At first supplementing his income by retaining his father’s position as fire watchman, by 1823 Hiroshige was making his living primarily as a book illustrator and classic Utagawa school printmaker, producing traditional prints mainly of actors and lovely women.


By the early 1830s, Hiroshige had found his creative niche in landscapes, steering away from the themes of his schooling. During this period he created the series “Eight Famous Views of Omi” and a ten-print series, “Famous Places of the Eastern Capital.”


Success came in Hiroshige’s own time, his genius being elevated to fame with the “Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido.” This series of prints is still recognised as being amongst the greatest of all landscapes in the long history of Japanese printmaking.