Japanese passed away and his dad grew ill,

Japanese artist Hiroshige, also known as Utagawa Hiroshige, is considered to be one of the great ukiyo-e woodblock print masters during the Edo period. He was born in what is now Tokyo in 1797. When Hiroshige was just 12 years old, his mother passed away and his dad grew ill, forcing him to resign his job of fire warden and pass it on to his son. Hiroshige’s responsibilities as a fire warden were minimal which gave him time to join the art school of ukiyo-e master Utagawa Toyohiro. It is speculated that during his time as a student he grew familiar with the Chinese-influenced Kan? style and the Shij? style, both of which we can see traces of in his later work. Hiroshige’s artistic career can be divided into 3 stages: the first would be a compilation of the work he produced during his time as a student; the second stage consists of landscape prints when his own style is more prominent; in the third stage the quality of his work seems to lack due to a high demand for his craft which mostly focused on landscape and figure-with-landscape designs. Hiroshige gained a lot of attention in the West during the Post-Impressionists period when Van Gogh copied two of Hiroshige’s paintings. The ukiyo-e (literal translation: pictures of the floating world) genre of art consists of making realistic woodblock prints. It first emerged in the late sixteenth century, during the Edo Period. The artistic process is a long one which involves 3 major steps: first, the artist paints a design with ink, then he gives that design to a person who will carve it into wooden blocks, and lastly, a producer is responsible for smearing the wood blocks with ink and then pressing sheets of paper on them to print the design. Ukiyo-e works usually depict the every day life of the common Edo people. In Hiroshige’s Soshu Enoshima Benzaiten kaicho-mode Hongu Iwaya no zu, (Picture of Iwaya, The Main Shrine: Pilgrims to the Display of Benzaiten at Enoshima, Sagami Province), 1845, vibrant colors come together to compose the traditional scenery from the back of the island of Enoshima where we can observe visitors to the Shinto shrine. Mt. Fuji looms in the far left of the print while the popular ‘Chopping-Board Rock’ is towards the bottom right. Most of the visitors depicted are women robed in matching cotton ‘yukata’ over their kimono and carrying paper umbrellas with emblems of the four main Edo schools of narrative chanting.


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