Utagawa Hiroshige was a Japanese artist known for his ukiyo-e prints. The artist was considered the last great master of such technique; Hiroshige was also a significant influence on western art through artists such as Vincent van Gogh.
Hiroshige was born in 1797 in Edo(present-day Tokyo). His great-grandfather was a samurai who held a respectable position of power under the clan Tsugaru. His father was a fire warden.
By his twelve years old, he already lost a sister, his mother, and his father, who passed him his fire warden duties. He was encharged with fire prevention at the Edo Castle, a job that left him much spare time.
Hiroshige began to paint around his 14 years of age. He sought tutelage under Utagawa Toyohiro at the Utagawa school, which was the most powerful woodblock print school of the 19th century. By 15 years old, he was already permitted to sign his artworks, which he finally did under the name Hiroshige, after many changes. He also studied many schools of traditional Japanese painting such as Kano and Shijo as well as Western perspective techniques and ukiyo-e.
It was only around 1830 that he started to execute the landscapes he came to be known for, such as the series Eight Views of Omi. He also produced several numbers of flower and bird prints around this time. His early work seems to carry a significant influence from Katsushika Hokusai, who recently published his famous Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.
In 1832, upon an invitation, Hiroshige joined an official procession to Kyoto, which was an opportunity to know the Tokaido route that linked both capitals. He sketched the landscape along the way, which several of them would become the series The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido, containing some of his best-known artworks. Hiroshige, building on his recent success, subsequently published other sets of prints such as Famous Places of Kyoto, Places of Naniwa, and Eight Views of Omi. Since the artist never been to Naniwa and the Omi Province, Hiroshige often used pictures found in paintings and books as reference.
Beginning in 1848, Hiroshige started to produce his highly celebrated series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, working on them until the last decade of his life. Said series had a monumental influence even to Western painting. As the Japanese printmaking popularized in the West, several artists began to draw influence from said artworks. Probably the most iconic example of said influence was Vincent van Gogh’s Flowering Plum Tree, a direct reference to Hiroshige’s The Plum Garden in Kameido.
The artist continued to produce prints until the end of his life.
Utagawa Hiroshige died on October 12, 1858.