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Hokusai — is not only one of the giants of Japanese art and a legend of the Edo period, but also a founding father of Western modernism , whose prolific gamut of prints, illustrations, paintings, and beyond forms one of the most comprehensive oeuvres of ukiyo-e art and a benchmark of japonisme. Hokusai was always a man on the move. He changed domicile more than 90 times during his lifetime and changed his own name through over 30 pseudonyms.

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In addition, he created album prints, illustrations for verse anthologies and historical novels, and surimono , which were privately issued prints for special occasions. Hokusai Rhiannon Paget. About the series About the series. You may also like. The Sixty-Nine Stations along t Art for All. The Colour Woodcut in Vienna around A problem occurred.

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Since the Heian period — , Japanese nobles and the samurai classes have admired Chinese literature and poetry. The Edo period — ushered in more than years of peace and stability that gave rise to a financially empowered merchant class with a broad appreciation of the arts. A knowledge of Chinese and Japanese literature was pursued and enjoyed by this new culturally informed society and led to the publication of books and prints on these themes. These prints, executed in the nagaban narrow vertical print format, resemble the shape of a small picture scroll.

Rather than depicting landscapes based on actual locations, for this series Hokusai returned to his passion for literary, mythological and historical subjects and employed his compositional knowledge of nanga Chinese Southern School painting , where depth is created by the use of a diagonally zigzagging structure of angles.

Katsushika Hokusai (Saber)

The series features historically acclaimed poets portrayed in imagined scenes inspired by their poems, or in real-life episodes for which they had become famous. Japanese and Chinese poets are featured in their respective countries, with the exception of the Japanese poet Abe no Nakamaro, depicted in China, and the Chinese poet Bai Juyi, shown visiting Japan.

The kingdom played a key role in maritime trade between South-East Asia, China, Korea and Japan, maintaining a semi-independent status by cultivating diplomatic relations with China from the fourteenth century onwards, and pledging itself as a vassal state of the Satsuma Domain of Japan in the seventeenth century. The occasion was celebrated with a parade of exotically dressed officials, attendants and musicians through the streets of the city, which led to a surge of public interest in the mysterious southern kingdom.

The depictions of flowering plants that Hokusai made until his seventies follow the classical Chinese traditions of Song dynasty paintings.


Prints in the first series, known as Large Flowers , are in the horizontal oban large sheet format. The second series of prints, known as Small Flowers , are in the more intimate chuban half sheet format and match species of flowers with birds in seasonal settings. The names of the birds and flowers are inscribed on each sheet, and Japanese or Chinese poems enhance the contemplative settings. Visual interpretations of poems from the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu had traditionally been formalised depictions of court life, or portraits of the poets themselves dressed in classical costume.

Hokusai, however, had egalitarian ideals and filled many of his scenes with ordinary people engaging in daily chores and rejoicing in the simple pleasures of life. Hokusai was a highly literate man, and while enjoying the classical interpretation of these verses must also have relished their phonetic potential for double meanings. While the formal poem appears in the patterned cartouche in the upper right of each print, the ever-caring surrogate mother perhaps representing Hokusai himself visually retells the poem not within the strict conventions of ancient Japan but with the sincerity and loving maternal care of a wet nurse who is interpreting the verses to us — children of the modern age.

Nine additional volumes were published between and , and further volumes were created in c. Depictions of contortionists, magic tricks, ghosts, monsters, funny faces and dance instructions, a man submerged under water in a large glass bottle and drunken party games reveal an eccentric side of the artist. The presence of Mt Fuji, with its conical shape and sweeping lines, never appears repetitious. Released in , The Life of Shakyamuni is an interpretation of the life of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni , illustrated by Hokusai and written by Yamada Isai.

The six-volume publication consists of fifty-five episodes and thirty-five illustrations and tells the story of Buddha, from his birth in the kingdom of Kapilavastu to the return of his cremated ashes there on the back of a huge white elephant. In these volumes we see lavish depictions of ornate architecture and exotic landscapes, the physicality and facial expressions of eccentric characters, and terrifying mythical beasts.

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At the age of 73 I finally apprehended something of the true quality of birds, animals, insects, fishes, and of the vital nature of grasses and trees. Therefore, at 80 I shall have made some progress, at 90 I shall have penetrated even further the deeper meaning of things, at I shall have become truly marvelous, and at , each dot, each line shall surely possess a life of its own.

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I only beg that gentlemen of sufficiently long life take care to note the truth of my words. Hokusai embodied in his long lifetime the essence of the Ukiyo-e school of art during its final century of development.

His stubborn genius also represents, in its 70 years of continuous artistic creation, the prototype of the single-minded artist, striving only to complete a given task. Moreover, Hokusai constitutes a figure who has, since the later 19th century, impressed Western artists, critics, and art lovers alike, more, possibly, than any other single Asian artist. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback.

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Written By: Richard Lane. Early years. Facts Matter.

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