Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858)
Ando Hiroshige was born in 1797 under the name of Ando Tokutaro. He was the son of a Edo firewarden, position he later inherited from his father. In 1811 he started as an apprentice with the Ukiyo-e master Utagawa Toyohiro. It was on this occasion that he received the name Utagawa Hiroshige.
He published his first work, an illustrated book, in 1818. In following decade Hiroshige published several prints of different genres, namely actor, warrior and beauty (bijin) prints. Around 1830 he started, under the influence of the great Hokusai, the series that made him famous: ""Eight Views of Omi", "Famous Places of the Eastern Capital" and, above all these, "The 53 Stations of the Tokaido".
After the stunning success of this series, Hiroshige designed "Famous Views of the Main Island", "Famous Views of Kyoto", "The 69 Stations of the Kisokaido", "Famous Places of the Sixty-odd Provinces", "36 Views of Mount Fuji" and "One hundred famous places of Edo". Hiroshige was not an eccentric genius, as was the case of Hokusai, but he had nevertheless an enormous influence in the development of the landscape print. He also excelled in Kacho-e (birds and flowers) prints.
Hiroshige consolidated landscape as an independent subject, and adapted it to the taste of the public. Since the appearance of the first edition of "The 53 Stations of the Tokaido" (generally considered one of the best series ever published and, together with his last series "One hundred famous places of Edo, one of his greatest masterpieces) Hiroshige was an immensely popular artist. That explains the successive re-editions of this extraordinary series (between 16 and 19, not counting straight reprints). Unfortunately this caused, in several instances, a marked decline in quality due to overproduction.
However Hiroshige at his best is an undisputed master in the treatment of nature, and specially of the poetic impressions it conveys. Hiroshige is, still today, the most loved of all Japanese artist. He is generally considered, together with Hokusai, the zenith of the Ukiyo-e woodblock print. His pupils were not noteworthy, with the exception of Hiroshige II, in son in law.