Memorial portrait of ichiryusai hiroshige (1797-1858)
Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) is one of the famous ukiyoe scenery artists from the Edo era. His father, Andou Gensaemon, was a fireman of the Edo castle and Hiroshige was born in Yayosugashi, Edo. He displayed artistic talent from a young age and his sketch of the Ryukyu (present-day Okinawa) people who’ve paid a visit to the capital in a line procession (Ryukyujin Raikouzukan (1806)), at the age of 10, still remains till this day.
His parents passed away in 1809 and he inherited his father’s fireman duties at the age of thirteen. At the same time, he pursued his passion in the arts.
Hiroshige originally planned on becoming an apprentice of Shodai Utagawa Toyokuni at the age of 15, but he was rejected as he already has had enough disciples. As a result, Hiroshige ended up becoming the apprentice of his disciple Utagawa Toyohiro (1774-1830), who’s already a well-reputed ukiyoe artist with various publications. He learnt the techniques of drawing beautiful women with characteristic long oval face and narrow eyes, and exquisite sceneries from his master. In 1812, he’s given the name Utagawa Hiroshige.
At that time, he juggled between his main occupation as a fireman while drawing beautiful women and actors on the sideline. However, for close to twenty years, his works did not receive much attention from the public. At the end of the Bunsei era, he put aside his family duty and focused on arts. At that time, Hokusai’s groundbreaking Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku Sanjyurokkei) series was released and Hiroshige himself also took on the challenge of drawing scenic places.
In 1832, he travelled to Kyoto as part of the annual customary procession visit to the capital by the Tokugawa Bakufu, during which he drafted several sketches; he published the “Tokaido Gojyusantsugi” two years later which finally catapulted him to fame. The Tokaido Gojyusantsugi contained sceneries of the 53 rest-stops between Edo and Kyoto along the approximately 500km Tokaido route which takes 2 week to complete. Since then he has continued drawing beautiful sceneries which include Mt Fuji.
Unlike ordinary scenery woodblock prints, his works evoke sentimental feelings which reflected his admiration of nature’s beauty. There’s also a sense of loneliness of a wandering traveler in his sketches which appealed to the people in the tumultuous Bakumatsu era. In his later years, he shaved his hair and became a Buddhist priest. Still, he never gave up drawing and captured various sceneries of his hometown Edo which he later published as part of his One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo Hyakkei) series.
His work, The Plum Blossom Garden at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki), which depicted the plum blossom tree trunk as the main centerpiece while the beautiful plum blossoms were drawn in the back, was considered a bold piece. It has captured the attention of many, and even Vincent van Gogh himself has taken a liking to it that he redrew it as an oil painting. In 1858, Hiroshige unfortunately caught the cholera and passed away soon after at the age of 62.
This amazing article written by Yeong!
(30cm x 45cm)