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.
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.
Back to JNC's home page
© Copyright 2009 by J. Noel Chiappa
Last updated: 7/June/2009