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Reference » Ukiyo-e »  Artists Biographies

Hiroshige Ando 1797-1858

Hiroshige is considered one of six greatest Japanese printmaking artists in Ukiyo-e history. He is best known for his landscape prints. His use of perspective is known to have influenced Western impressionists such as Van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Hiroshige was born in Edo, present Tokyo, as a son of Ando Genemon, a fire warden. His given name was Tokutaro. It is believed that he was already interested in drawing and painting at his younger age. When he was thirteen, his both parents died a year after another. Hiroshige had to succeed his family’s estate and father’s operation as a fireman, although his desire was to become a successful artist.

In 1811, Hiroshige attempted to enter the famous Utagawa School being run by Toyokuni I (1777-1835), who was known for his actor prints. But the school’s application was already full. Hiroshige tried another Ukiyo-e master Toyohiro (1773-1829), who was producing landscape print designs. This incident had become a decisive factor for Hiroshige of being a major artist. At the school, he was given the artist name ‘Hiroshige’ and allowed to use pen name, Ichiyusai.

It is believed that his first publication was an illustration, which appeared in a Kyoka (comic poetry) book in 1818 signed ‘Ichiyusai Hiroshige’. He then designed beauty prints published by Iwatoya and actor prints by Yamaguchiya. Majority of his early works around this time was a depiction of Beauties. Unlike Toyokuni I or Kunisada, Hiroshige’s beauty prints were tranquil and mellow, which showed an influence from his master Toyohiro. At the age of 25, he married his fellow fire warden's daughter.

In 1831, Hiroshige altered his pen name to ‘Ichiyusai’ which was pronounced same as before but with a different Japanese character. This small alteration of his Go name triggered a new creation of his works in landscapes and birds and flowers. His first landscape series ‘Toto Meisho’ (The Famous Places of Eastern Capital) was published. The following year, Ichiyusai was renamed further to ‘Ichiritsusai’ and Hiroshige passed on his family responsibility to his relatives to dedicate his entire energy to printmaking.

In the same year (1832), Hiroshige was appointed by Bakufu, the feudal government of Japan to accompany an official procession from Edo to Kyoto and then the residence of the emperor along the Tokaido road. The artist made many sketches during the journeys, resulting in the production of his most acclaimed series Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road in the next two years. This series received a huge commercial success. During 1833-1843 Hiroshige designed a huge number of landscape prints, those 10 years were thought to be his most developed and innovative period. The series such as ‘Sixty-nine Stations of Kisokaido Road’, ‘Eight Views of Omi’ and ‘Famous Places of Kyoto’ during his ‘Ichiritsusai’ era would lead to his following mature era with the production of ‘Famous Views of Sixty-odd Provinces’, ‘Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji’ and his last great series, ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’, which he could not unfortunately succeed due to his illness and death. It was completed by his follower and the step-son Hiroshige II.  

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