Ando Hiroshige Picture

The prominent Japenese woodblock print artist Ando Hiroshige was born in 1797 in Edo (Tokyo). His father Tokaui Tanaka was a samurai as well as a fireman. In 1809 both his mother and father died, leaving Ando to take over his father’s position at the firehouse. From birth, Ando had an inclination toward art, which he cultivated while performing his duties at the firehouse.

At the age of 15, young Ando beseeched the famous artist Toyokuni for an apprenticeship, but Toyokuni could not accommodate another student. Although Hiroshige was not aware of it at the time, this event proved to be serendipitous—for if Hiroshige would have remained with Toyokuni, then he would have spent the rest of his life composing woodblock portraits. Instead, Hiroshige became an apprentice of the lesser known Toyohiro were he quickly refined his skills, and in 1812 he became a member of the Utagawa fraternity. At the age of 27, Ando Hiroshige relinquished his job as a fireman in order to fully pursue his art.  During the 1820s Hiroshige composed woodblock prints of beautiful women (bijinga), actors (yakushae), and book illustrations.

A new trend in woodblock printing followed the renowned Hokusai’s landscape series the “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”. Hioshige followed this movement and produced the 1826 series “Famous Views of the Eastern Capital”. In 1839, Hiroshige traveled along the Tokaido Road, the road between Tokyo and Kyoto, on a shogunal delegation. During his journey, Hiroshige drew sketches of the 53 overnight stations along the Tokaido. These sketches formed a series of 55 woodblock prints labeled the “Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido”. These prints became instantly successfully and catapulted Hiroshige into a prominent public figure. Hiroshige also found fame with his woodblock prints “Eight Views of Omi” (1834), “Famous Views of Kyoto” (1834), and “Sixty-Nine Stations of the Ksokaido” (19390.

During the 1840s and 50s Hiroshige’s success began to affect the quality of his work. The public’s desire for Hiroshige woodblock landscapes brought about a repetitious and mediocre attribute to Hiroshige’s work. In 1853, however, Hiroshige did produce the quality woodblock print series “Famous Places of the Sixty Provinces” and “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo”. In Hiroshige’s later years he composed a great deal of “ukiyo-e” paintings, which literally means, “pictures of the floating world of the common man”. Hiroshige also produced woodblock prints of birds and flowers that were markedly different from his earlier works.

Hiroshige retired in 1856 and died in 1858 during a cholera epidemic. He was buried in Asakusa in a Zen temple. Ando Hiroshige’s romantic and sentimental style along with his innovative perspectives influenced European as well as American artists. Vincent van Gogh’s 1887 painting “Bridge in the Rain” was modeled after Hiroshige’s famous painting “Thunderstorm at Ohashi”, and the artists Degas, Claude Monet, Manet and Whistler were also inspired by Hiroshige’s creative woodblock prints.