|Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858)
Ando Hiroshige was born 1797 as Ando Tokutaro in the town of Yayosugashi, headquarters of the fire brigade in Edo. His father, Tanaka Gen’emon, son of a lower Samurai, was adopted by the Ando family and hence bore the hereditary title of a fire brigade officer. In the year of his parents’ death, Hiroshige took over his father’s hereditary fire brigade office. After only a short period of time, he relinquished this office and passed it on to his uncle, Ando Tetsuzo until his son Nakajiro came of age in 1833 and overtook the office. Hiroshige did, however, keep his title of River Inspector as this allowed him to travel through all provinces of Tokaido.
His talent was evident from an early age. As young as aged 10, he had already portrayed the Procession of the Embassy of the Ryukyu-Islands. His first formal lessons were from Okajima Rinsai, a painter of the Kano-School, who also held the title of a fire brigade office.
As early as 1809, Rinsai attempted to enrol him in the Utagawa-School but he was rejected by Toyokuni (1769-1825). The second attempt involving Toyohiro (1773-1828) was at first unsuccessful but after a personal meeting with the master, he was accepted into his studio. One year later, he had acquired the pupil’s name of “Utagawa” and a personal name “Hiroshige” which was comprised of the last character from Toyohiro’s name (hiro) and an alternative reading of the first character of the name Juemon (ju=shige) which had been Hiroshige’s youth name.
In the first years Hiroshige mainly produced works in the traditional style of the Utagawa-School which were mostly portraits of women, actors and book illustrations. When his teacher Toyohiro died in 1828, Hiroshige declined to succeed him as Toyohiro II. At this point he had most likely intended to break with tradition and wished to avoid soiling his master’s name. As Toyohiro’s successor, Hiroshige would have had to carry on with Toyohiro’s tradition and school and could hence not have created his revered landscapes. In 1831, almost 10 years after Hokusai’s success with “36 Views of Fuji”, Hiroshige’s first important 10 page landscape series “Toto Meisho” (Famous Views of the Eastern Capital) was published. In that same year, he accompanied the official annual trip of the Shogun to Kyoto and was introduced to Tokaido there. The series “Tokaido gojusan tsugi no uchi” (The 53 Stations of the Tokaido), published by Hoeido and which made him famous overnight, were based on the sketches Hiroshige made on this trip.
Shortly after the death of Hiroshige’s first wife and mother to his son Nakajiro in 1839, Hiroshige wed Hiroshige Oyasu, a farmer’s daughter from the Hamamatsu area, 20 years his junior. In 1841, Hiroshige went on many trips to different Japanese provinces in his role as River Inspector and was able to combine these business trips with art journeys. The motifs gathered on these trips found their way into new landscape series and his accurately kept journal allowed him to transcribe the scenes precisely. His sparsely conserved journal entries reflect Hiroshige’s great interest for local landmarks and customs as well as his joy in sociability, good food and drink.
Hiroshige’s son Nakajiro’s death in 1845 prompted him to adopt his pupil Shingenobu, later to be know as Hiroshige II, as well as the six-year old girl Otatsu. After Hiroshige’s death they marry one another but the marriage is dissolved in 1865 and Hiroshige II gives up the famous name. Otatsu marries Shigemasa, a further pupil of Hiroshige’s, who takes on the name of Hiroshige III.
Hiroshige dies, aged 62, during a cholera epidemic. The commemorative work created by Kunisada I (=Toyokuni III, 1786-1864) shows Hiroshige with a shaved head and wearing a priest’s robe adorned with his Hiro crest holding a rosary in his hand (a common practice as Hiroshige has entered priesthood in 1847). Next to his friend Tenmei Rojin’s eulogy, Hiroshige’s own farewell poem reads:
In the East
I leave my paintbrush behind
on the journey
to the west
to view famous places
last updated by mh! at 04.09.2007 11:54
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