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Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

Title Page: Famous Places in the 60-odd Provinces

Series: Famous Places in the 60-odd Provinces
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1856
Size (H x W): 14.25 x 9.75 (inches)
Publisher: Koshimuraya Heisuke (Koshihei)
Seals: Aratame and date seal
Signature: Gengyo ga (title page designed by Baisotei Gengyo (1817-1880)
Condition: Very good color and impression, light wear, light original album backing, binding holes on right edge, embellished with embossing



Designed by Baisotei Gengyo (1817-1800), this title page was included in albums of Hiroshige's Famous Places in the 60-odd Provinces released between 1856 and 1858. Printed in brilliant red, the title cartouche reads “Series Famous Places in the 60-odd Provinces of Japan, Ichiryusai Hiroshige.” The provinces are grouped in decorative cartouches by the eight-region system known as the gokishichido. These include the region of the five provinces around the imperial capital of Kyoto (gokinai) and the seven regions around Japan’s ancient highways (shichido): the Tokaido, Tosando, Hokurikudo, Sanindo, Sanyodo, Nankaido, and Saikaido. In the first release of the album, the provinces of Bungo and Buzen were omitted from the Saikaido. This mistake was later corrected with a plug in the block. The small red cartouche in the bottom identifies the publisher, Koshimurarya Heisuke, and the date, 1856.

About the artist

Born in Edo as Tokutaro Ando, Hiroshige Utagawa grew up in a minor samurai family. His father belonged to the firefighting force assigned to Edo Castle. It is here that Hiroshige was given his first exposure to art: legend has it that a fellow fireman tutored him in the Kano school of painting, though Hiroshige’s first official teacher was Rinsai. Though Hiroshige tried to join Toyokuni Utagawa's studio, he was turned away. In 1811, young Hiroshige entered an apprenticeship with the celebrated Toyohiro Utagawa. After only a year, he was bestowed with the artist name Hiroshige. He soon gave up his role in the fire department to focus entirely on painting and print design. During this time he studied painting, intrigued by the Shijo school. Hiroshige’s artistic genius went largely unnoticed until 1832.

In Hiroshige Utagawa's groundbreaking series of Japanese woodblock prints, The 53 Stations of the Tokaido (1832-1833), he captured the journey along the Tokaido road, the highway connecting Edo to Kyoto, the imperial capital. With the Tokugawa Shogunate relaxing centuries of age-old restrictions on travel, urban populations embraced travel art and Hiroshige Utagawa became one of the most prominent and successful ukiyo-e artists. He also produced kacho-e (bird-and-flower pictures) to enormous success. In 1858, at the age of 61, he passed away as a result of the Edo cholera epidemic.

Hiroshige Utagawa’s woodblock prints continue to convey the beauty of Japan and provide insight into the everyday life of its citizens during the Edo period. The appeal of his tender, lyrical landscapes was not restricted to the Japanese audience. Hiroshige’s work had a profound influence on the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists of Europe: Toulouse-Lautrec was fascinated with Hiroshige’s daring diagonal compositions and inventive use of perspective, while Van Gogh literally copied two of Hiroshige's prints from the famous series, 100 Famous Views of Edo in oil paint.