Utagawa Shigenobu (Hiroshige II) (1826-1869)

Utagawa Shigenobu (1826-1869) was the chief pupil of the the second great master of the Japanese landscape woodblock print, Hiroshige. He took over his master's go 'Hiroshige' on the latter's death, and is now principally known by it, being more usually referred to as 'Hiroshige II'.

The general view on him now is that was a relatively minor artist who was unable to generate a distinct style of his own, but nonetheless occasionally designed some very fine prints, and produced a considerable body of acceptable work. Many critics feel that the quality of his later works feel off significantly towards the end of his life, especially during the last half-decade.

Detailed biography

He was born into a family of fire-watchmen, like his master Hiroshige I. He was originally named Suzuki Chimpei, and as his artistic career began, he was given the name Shigenobu (重宣) by his master Hiroshige I. He was made part of his master's household, and married Hiroshige I's daughter Tatsu.

During the period 1849-1858, he produced his earliest works, very much in the style of Hiroshige I. His work was principally nature prints, although he also produced figure prints, and prints of samurai or historical subjects. He also began signing with 'Ichiyūsai' (一幽斎, a former go of Hiroshige I) during this period.

He is thought to have assisted Hiroshige I with a number of his later series, including '36 Views of Fuji' and the 'Upright Tokaido'. He is known to have contributed at least three prints in 10/1858 to Hiroshige I's last great series of landscape prints, the Hundred Views of Edo, using the signature 'Hiroshige' (during Hiroshige I's lifetime).

After Hiroshige's death in 1858, in the first month of the following year he formally adopted his master's go of Ichiryūsai (一立斎) and Hiroshige (広重, although they wrote it with the characters 廣重). During this period his work continued to strongly resemble that of Hiroshige I, both in style and subject matter.

In 1865, he divorced his wife, moved to Yokohama, remarried, and adopted the names Ryūsho and Risshō (立祥). Although his prints were shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1867, it brought him little success in Japan, and he was forced to make a living painting tea-sets and lanterns for export. He died in Yokohama, in great poverty, in 1869.


He produced a number of series of prints, many of them views of Edo, including: Some are of some merit: the 'Thirty-Six Flowers', all shown at famous places in Tōkyō (as it was by then called) in particular is a good flower series, and 'One Hundred Views of Famous Places in Various Provinces' contains a number of first-rate images.


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Last updated: 7/June/2009