Toward a re-evaluation of Utagawa Hiroshige III
Utagawa Hiroshige III 三代歌川広重 (1842–1894) is a representative woodblock print artist of the Meiji period (1868–1912) who is known today for chronicling the Westernization and modernization of that time. The discussion of his work revolves mainly around his kaika-e開化絵: prints representing specific symbols of Westernization, modernization, and industrialization such as brick buildings, steam trains, and other new modes of transportation.
Evaluation of Hiroshige III
Hiroshige III has been mainly evaluated through his kaika-e of the 1870s and 1880s. Since the 1950s, he has been abbreviated as a print artist of little artistic importance and whose work is only to be valued as cultural documents of the Meiji period. Although Hiroshige III’s devotion to chronicling the Westernization and modernization of Meiji-Japan is an important aspect of his career, as he did design an abundance of prints documenting the changing cityscape of the capital and the country, little is known about the artist outside of the above stereotypical description.
Hiroshige, Hiroshige II, or Hiroshige III?
The discussions of Hiroshige III's life and work are (more often than not) short, repetitive, and above all in relation to Hiroshige and Hiroshige II. The first biographical profile of Hiroshige III was written in Japanese in 1883 and a first reference in the English literature followed in 1904. Yet, Hiroshige III had to wait until 1972 for a more detailed interpretation of his life and work in English, which remained in relation to Hiroshige and Hiroshige II.
Utagawa Hiroshige III. Etchū Province, Giant Octopus in Namekawa (Etchū Namekawa dai tako no zu 越中滑川大章魚之図) from the series Pictorial Record of Products of Great Japan (Dai Nippon bussan zue 大日本物産図会), 1877. Chūban nishiki-e. Photograph © National Diet Library Digital Collections.
My research on Hiroshige III
In my PhD dissertation, I included a biographical profile of Hiroshige III alongside an overview and analysis of his career, output (all his prints, serialized print series, illustrated books, and paintings), and (historical) evaluation. This allowed me to gain insight in his geographical and social mobility, as well as in his network, in the consistent people in this network such as publishers, engravers, other print artists and so on, in his career patterns, in the returning topics of his oeuvre, and in his activities.
* indicates peer reviewed publications
Terryn, F. 2022. “Love for sale: Hiroshige III’s instructions on how to be a good wife.” Wasshoi 4: 36-49.
* Terryn, F. 2022. “Playful pictures as satire: Japanese print artists and publishers capitalizing on the shift in political power during the Boshin War.” In Voiced and Voiceless in Asia, edited by H. Zawiszová and M. Lavička. Palacký University Olomouc. (accepted for publication 31 Aug 2021 – expected October 2022)
Terryn, F. 2022. “What’s in a name? Utagawa Hiroshige III and the art of reinventing oneself.” Wasshoi 3: 28–41.
* Terryn, F. 2021. “Image and text to educate the nation: Reinterpreting the woodblock print series Pictorial Record of Products of Great Japan.” Archaeological Review from Cambridge 36.2: 171–91.
Results will be presented on two occasions:
“Hyakunin isshu and the Hiroshige studio: Utagawa Hiroshige’s take on the classical Japanese anthology,” Wissenswerkstatt / Werkstattgespräche, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Berlin (online), November 3, 2022.
“Hyakunin isshu in geïllustreerde boeken: Focus op Utagawa Hiroshige III,” Boekhistorisch Forum, KU Leuven, Leuven, November 25, 2022.