Utagawa Hiroshige

Utagawa Hiroshige, whose birth name was Hiroshige Ando, born in 1797 in Edo and died on October 12, 1858 in Edo, was a Japanese draughtsman, engraver and painter. He is distinguished by a series of prints on Mount Fuji and Edo, evocatively drawing the landscapes and atmosphere of the city, capturing moments of daily life in the city before its transformation in the Meiji era (1868-1912).

Prolific author, active between 1818 and 1858, he created a work consisting of more than 5,400 prints.

Along with Hokusai, with whom he is often compared, he is one of the last great names of ukiyo-e and, in particular, of landscape prints, which he brought to an unprecedented peak before the decline of xylography in Japan.

His most famous series, the One Hundred Views of Edo, The Sixty-Nine Stations of Kiso Kaidō and especially The Fifty-Three Stations of Tōkaidō, rival in fame Hokusai's famous series, the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (which includes what is probably the most famous Japanese print, The Great Wave of Kanagawa).

Hiroshige's style, however, is quite different from that of Hokusai.

Hiroshige is the humble interpreter of nature, who, with the help of the frustrating means of woodcutting, knows how to express, as through an "enchanted window", the delicate transparencies of the atmosphere throughout the seasons, in landscapes where man is always present. The composition of his works is striking, characterized by a subtle mastery of bold colors - with a dominant green and blue. His sense of the foreground was later taken up by Degas, and is found in photography.

Shortly after the forced reopening of Japan to trade with the West, it was mainly through the work of Hiroshige that the world discovered the astonishing originality of the graphic arts in this country around 1870. Japonism will have a determining influence on impressionist painters and then on Art Nouveau.