Japanese art and Hiroshige: Beauty in simplicity

Japanese art and Hiroshige: Beauty in simplicity

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Time

Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) hails from Japan. Throughout his life, he depicted a world that highlighted the natural beauty of the countryside in Japan along with focusing on ordinary people who were traveling, on a religious pilgrimage, working, the urban landscape, and so forth.

Hiroshige focused on many artistic themes – including birds, erotic art (shunga), landscapes, nature, religious angles, and so much more. True to Hiroshige, the ordinary often became sublime beauty. Therefore, the appeal of Hiroshige never fades in Japan and internationally.

The British Museum says, “Renowned painter and print artist. Pupil of Utagawa Toyohiro; also studied with Okajima Rinsai and Ooka Umpo. The leading landscape artist of the ‘Ukiyoe’ school, Hiroshige was the son of an official in the fire department.” 

Collective-related pieces of work of high repute include the Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido Road, the Eight Views of Lake Biwa, the Hundred Views of Edo, and many others. Hence, one can imagine how the Tokaido Road connected people in the Edo Period in this part of Japan.

Initially, Hiroshige was a fire warden before turning to the world of art. Thus he protected Edo Castle by inheriting his father’s work. The income generated from this job would become the cornerstone of his artistic career that blossomed after he studied under Utagawa Toyohiro.

Hiroshige provides a glimpse into the world of ordinary people. Hence, rather than focus on the leisure angle – or fashionable ladies – a world of the working-class, pilgrims, and ordinary urban landscapes are visualized. Therefore, the genius of his art connects to the natural world that existed.

The death poem of Hiroshige says, “I leave my brush in the East And set forth on my journey. I shall see the famous places in the Western Land.”


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