Utagawa Hiroshige – Fisher and Fire


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A quiet yet kinetic scene as a fishermen sorts through their catch, net in the water, fishing by the light of a torch hanging off the bow of the boat

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One of the transformative aspects of Hiroshige’s work as Japanese woodblocks transitioned from the Ukiyo-e (“the Floating World”) to Shin Hanga was the focus on scenes from the world around us. In coastal Japan, one of those scenes would be the common fisherman casting his net into the water.

The Composition

Multiple times this author has had to re-query this print because it doesn’t fit the bill of being a Hiroshige. Hiroshige is known for creating scenes of Japan, but in a very static, stylized fashion. This print has a tension in it, a kinetic energy, that doesn’t seem to fit the stereotype of a Hiroshige composition. Created with bold line treatments juxtaposed with fine shading between the water, horizon, background shadows and smoke, as the viewer you’re not sure where the water ends. The boat is only partially in the frame, most of it hanging off to the right, with the netting system hanging off the boat and across the central point of the visible image. As such the subjects of the image are in the left 1/3 and right 1/3 of the image.

The Woodblock Print

The print is in markedly good condition, likely owing to being in a frame for much of its existence. No acid marks from the matting, original pencil “signature” on the matting. Thin standard margins. Excellent color and gradations.

The Artist

Born in Edo as Tokutaro Ando, Hiroshige 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 Utagawa Toyokuni’s studio, he was turned away. In 1811, young Hiroshige entered an apprenticeship with the celebrated Utagawa Toyohiro. 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’s groundbreaking series of woodblock prints, The 53 Stations of the Tokaido (1832-1833), Hiroshige 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 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.

Additional information


Hiroaki Takahashi (Shotei)


(A+) Excellent Condition






Yatsugiri-ban (3.75"x5")

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