In Japanese woodblock printing, Hiroshige ranks not only as one of the leading landscape artists, but also as one of the greatest masters of the medium. His romantic and moody evocations of nature capture a distant time and place that still holds a fascination for viewers today.
Hiroshige was born in Edo (present-day Tokyo) in 1797, the son of a fireman. After his parents died, Hiroshige began studying the art of woodblock printing with Toyohiro in 1810 or 1811, at age thirteen or fourteen. His earliest prints were primarily book illustrations, and it wasn't until the 1830s that Hiroshige began to find success with the genres for which he would become best known: landscapes and kacho-e (bird and flower prints).
Hiroshige's real breakthrough came with the publication of The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road in 1833-1834. Hiroshige expertly captures moody and atmospheric weather conditions, rendering mist, rain, snow, and evening effects with great skill and beauty. His poetic landscapes have a distinctly human touch about them, the addition of figures that lend a personal element to balance the beauty and wonder of nature.
The popularity of his initial Tokaido Road prints led Hiroshige to design nearly twenty different versions of the series during his lifetime, but he also created many other acclaimed landscape series, including the Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido Road, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, Famous Views of the Eastern Capital, Famous Views of the Sixty-odd Provinces, and One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, his late masterwork. Hiroshige was a prolific artist, designing an estimated 4,500 prints, mainly landscapes.